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Advances sometimes have drawbacks

My Opinion
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor

There have been some amazing inventions during the past 100 or so years: airplanes, washers and dryers, television, cell phones and computers, to name a few. There seems to be no end to advancements, whether it’s making them more efficient, smaller, faster, whatever. Pick an adjective.
And there’s no telling who might come up with the next technological advancement that will be welcomed by many. Take 18-year-old Eesha Khare of California, for example. She recently invented a super capacitor that can fully charge a cell phone in 20 to 30 seconds. That sure beats the couple of hours it currently takes to recharge my smartphone.
With most inventions, the general public is quick to jump on the bandwagon and can hardly wait to purchase the latest, greatest gadget.
Then, there are some devices that their acceptance depends on one’s circumstances. For example, consider the cameras that are popping up in metropolitan areas that capture the license plate number of drivers who are speeding and those who run red lights. The devices probably are deterring some motorists from committing such infractions and, thus, possibly saving others from serious injuries or even death. The fines imposed by those breaking the law are providing additional income to city coffers at a time when budget cutbacks seem to be on everyone’s radar.
However, if you’re someone who has a tendency to drive considerably faster than the speed limit or doesn’t want to wait through yet another traffic signal, then you likely wish such a device had never been invented.
One city that uses these cameras reported that nearly 60 percent of its residents have received at least one fine for their infraction and yet nearly 65 percent of those living there welcome the use of the cameras.
Let’s look at another tool that was put into place. This one, The USA Patriot Act of 2001, was signed into law on Oct. 26 of that year by then-President George W. Bush. It came on the heels of the unimaginable terrorists attacks of 9/11.
It was a time when Americans were grieving and banding together. They wanted reassurance that nothing like the loss of thousands of its people would happen again.
Hence, the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. Long name but, hopefully, amazing results. Provisions of the Act included weakening law enforcement agencies’ restrictions to gather intelligence within the United States, expanding the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to regulate financial transactions, especially those of foreign individuals and entities; and giving more discretion for authorities to detain and deport immigrants suspected of acts of terrorism.
Some modifications were made to the Act in 2005, and the revamped version was passed and signed into law in 2006.
In 2011, President Barack Obama signed an extension of that modified Act, which had been tweaked some more.
It appeared that Demo-crats and Republicans were on the same page when it came to protecting U.S. citizens from the likes of al-Qaida operatives.
Now, following the recent leak that daily records of phone calls and e-mails are being submitted and stored, some people are up in arms, citing their privacy is being invaded. Government officials charged with handling intelligence and security issues have reportedly said no one’s phone calls are actually being listened to but the capability exists if there is suspicion of terrorist activity.
I’m old enough to remember having a party-line telephone and how infuriating it could be to know someone was listening in on a conversation.
However, that was when the likely culprit was your neighbor whom you were likely to see on a daily basis, someone who was just being nosey. It was a time when we couldn’t fathom it possible for persons from a foreign country to attack us on American soil.
So much has changed in America in the past century or so. Some are for the better, for instance indoor plumbing. Others not so much, like learning we are vulnerable to terrorists attacks and need to keep up our guard.
Technology will constantly give way to new inventions and with that comes the potential of unwanted outcomes, like the government being able to know too much about us. I support those devices and programs designed to keep us safe.
After all, I don’t have anything to hide.