Dr. Oliver Sacks, who must be nearing 90 years of age, is a long-retired neurologist who has written several books providing insight on mental disturbances and diseases and what effect they have had on people who have suffered from them. I believe his first book on the topic was “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”
I have read several more of his works. He’s an excellent writer, a compassionate physician, a likable kind of guy. If you’re not familiar with his books, you might consider looking them up at the library.
I bring up Sacks because he has a brief essay in the Feb. 8 issue of The New Yorker that is worth the short time it will take you to read it. In it, Sacks observes what we have all seen: people everywhere, including children, constantly glued to their handheld devices, even when walking across busy streets, even when driving in school zones. The habit is all-consuming.
In his detailed observations, Sacks pauses to tell us about a story by E.M. Forster written in 1909 called “The Machine Stops.” Inexplicably, Forster imagined the future as it has become: a dismal future where everyone is plugged into, yes, The Machine. I must read the story. It end badly.
Will we all end badly because of our lack of interest in anything beyond the realm of the tiny screen? Will it end badly because we ignore our children and plug them into a screen as soon as they can focus their eyes. Sacks is an optimist.
Should he be?