There have been countless technological breakthroughs in the last 25 years, blessing us with wonders like bug zappers, bank machines, liposuction and seltzer in plastic bottles. But science has also given us a lot to fear -- meltdowns, ozone depletion and talking teddy bears.
What does this mean to you? Do your eyes widen in fear at the prospect of technologically induced disasters or do you exult in the promise of a better future? Or perhaps you say to yourself, "Oh, technology is really cool, but I'd rather be in the south of France."
But before seeing your travel agent, why not determine your own Personal Technology Quotient (PTQ) by taking the following multiple-choice test. Computing your PTQ will reveal with mathematical precision (or a good guess, whichever comes first) your attitude toward the industrial and social transformations wrought by applied science. How well do you fit into our rapidly changing world?
1. A friend shows you the latest digital watch -- a combination calculator, data bank, phone dialer, food processor, interdental stimulator and Space Invaders game. You:
A. recommend he consult a psychotherapist;
B. appreciate the engineering but prefer the charm of sundials;
C. demonstrate your own state-of-the art digital watch, which does all of the above and then eats the other watch.
2. Two scientists on the Metro are discussing the latest developments in superconductivity. You:
A. ask them to lower their voices so you can get some sleep;
B. eavesdrop, though you don't understand the technical terms;
C. take extensive notes that you will type, collate and file at home.
3. Having a computer and ample software at home is:
A. totally irrelevant in your life;
B. something you might consider useful for your children;
C. your greatest joy and refuge, more pleasurable than sex, food or Mozart.
4. The prospect of living in a high-tech-digitized-genetically-engineered future makes you:
A. wonder about employment possibilities in Tierra del Fuego;
B. concerned about the world your children may live in;
C. giddy with delight.
5. When party chatter turns to the latest development in chips, you:
A. hope they're talking about nachos;
B. listen, but try to steer the conversation back to problems you're having with a computer at work;
C. draw multicolored schematics of integrated circuits on cocktail napkins.
6. While wandering through the Museum of Science and Technology, you see the electronics exhibit and:
A. make a U-turn and head for the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden;
B. look at the displays without reading the explanations;
C. have a friend take pictures of you posing with a display of giant vacuum tubes.
7. When you were a child and your bicycle broke down, you would:
A. have your mother take it to a repair shop;
B. try to repair it yourself, then have your mother take it to a repair shop;
C. apply for a patent after rebuilding the bike into a more efficient model by using spare parts from your mother's blender.
8. You go into an audio shop, and the salesclerk begins talking about phase- locked loop modulation, crossovers and THD percentages. You:
A. assume he's speaking in tongues;
B. ask him for a translation so you can buy a tape deck;
C. discuss the ramifications of slew factors, triangular-shaped sine waves and clear plastic pocket protectors.
9. A friend shows you her new $5,000 stereo system -- a fantastic array of speakers with enough watts to power a small town. You wonder:
A. why anyone would spend so much money just to listen to music;
B. if you could spend less money and get a system that sounds as good;
C. if she'd let you disassemble the system to see how it's wired.
10. You need a new telephone, so you:
A. buy a basic black, no-frills desk model;
B. buy a sleek, wall-mounted speaker phone with a 20-number memory;
C. build your own touch-tone phone using the remaining parts from your mother's blender.
SCORING: Add one point for each A; two points for B; three for C.
INTERPRETATION: HOSTILE PTQ (10-15): You not only resist acknowledging technological change and its implications, but you also take perverse pleasure in being antediluvian. You freely quote the anti-technological musings of Thoreau and Gandhi while launching into hysterical diatribes against digital displays, miniature electronic devices and scientific advancement in general, which you condemn as another step closer to dehumanization. Your goal is to move to the wilds of northern Vermont where you'll live in a cabin made of recycled newspaper, read Proust and listen to a compost-powered AM radio.
AVERAGE PTQ (16-25): You are interested in Materia technica but feel somewhat overwhelmed by rapid technological advances. Just when you formed a sensitive, caring relationship with your microwave oven, for example, you found yourself the proud owner of a multi-featured stereo-capable, hi-fi, HQ VCR. Now you're struggling to decipher the instructions, written in classically fractured JapanoEnglish.
You read popular press articles on technology, slowly expanding your knowledge of things to come, and continue to buy new products. You have some trepidation however about continually upgrading your growing collection of consumer electronics, wondering if it's morally right to spend money on a new TV when most of the world is merely trying to upgrade to a daily meal.
NERD PTQ (27-30): You fit the classic nerd profile. You sit in a half lotus, have a license plate that reads MSDOS, UNIX or CPM, and repair the temples of your horn-rimmed glasses with Scotch tape. You are proud of your lifetime subscription to the Transistor Home Companion and your charter membership in the International Society of Electric Train Transformer Collectors.
Like most nerds, you've probably made some important contributions in your field, but you've missed out on a lot by worshipping machines and forgetting people. Some advice: Reconnect with humanity. Buy a bouquet of flowers for someone. Read E.B. White. Listen to Ray Charles. Smell the back of a baby's neck. ::