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We're hooked on high tech

Lately, my 1999 Dodge Caravan has been acting weird. It really worries me.

While driving to and from work this past week on highway, the interior light -- including the dashboard light -- suddenly flashed like lightning in a second. At the same time I could hear the automatic door clicking.

The same thing happened a couple of times, maybe a year ago. But this time it happened with more frequency.

I called a Chrysler dealership to ask what the problem could be. I thought the mechanics would be able to give me some ideas of what the possible causes were, how serious the problem was and if it was a really urgent problem that I had to stop driving right away.

But the person I talked to could not, or would not, give me any ideas about the problem or how serious the problem was. He only said he had to do a diagnosis in order to find the problem.

I could certainly understand the reason why he didn't want to say anything about the urgency of the problem without looking at my van.

But I was a little frustrated that he couldn't tell me what the possible causes were based on the description of the problem.

To be safe, I made the appointment to get the van checked on the same day I called. A computer diagnosistic was done as well as test driving. But no problem was found.

I knew something was wrong. It had happened again on the way to the Chrysler dealership.

But the expert couldn't find the problem and couldn't tell what the problem was. Money was spent without the problem being fixed.

I did get some peace of mind and the advice: It's fine to drive. Just bring it back when the flashing happens again.

This reminds me of something I have noticed after living in this country for a while. Some people rely so heavily on external devices that they become almost handicapped without them.

Let me give a few examples to show what I mean.

I have never seen my grandmother or my parents cooking with a recipe. And I don't cook with recipe either. But I have heard some people here say that they don't know how to cook without a recipe. They can only go by the book.

No wonder there are so many cookbooks here.

This could be a cultural difference, but could also be a generational difference.

Several years ago while I was at a grocery store checkout line, the power went out. It was interesting to watch what happened. The cashier didn't know how to give change without the cash machine.

Now, I am not good at math at all. Honestly, I can't solve some math problems my fifth grade son is learning.

Yet, I have no difficulty calculating changes using my brain. It's actually easier and faster to do so than using a calculator.

But in this country or in our modern society, we are so dependent on calculators and computers that some don't learn and know how to use the brain to do calculation.

The most obvious example comes from the medical field. Many of our modern doctors cannot diagnose a problem without medical devices.

If you have a health problem, the doctor will ask you to do a lot of different tests in order to do a diagnosis and find a problem. If the tests can not find any problem, then you have no problem, at least from the doctor's perspective.

A few years ago, I had a health problem with my heart. I felt especially uncomfortable at night. I went to see a doctor.

He couldn't find anything wrong. He said he would have to put me on a 24-hour monitoring in order to find out. That was too much testing for me and I didn't do it. Luckily the problem went away without any medical intervention.

I think a good doctor should be able to give some ideas of what the problems could be and what the causes could be based on the description of the symptoms.

But a lot of doctors now are so specialized in their own areas that they can't see the whole picture, and they are so dependent on medical devices that they can't tell anything without first doing some tests.

No wonder the medical cost gets higher and higher, because we are doing more unnecessary tests.

I remember my old days in China. There were not many medical devices. Doctors didn't do many tests. They often made diagnosis based on their own experiences and their five senses.

They asked more questions. They looked at your skin color or your tongue, listened to your heart beat, and felt you pulse, etc. They could tell where and what the problem was.

Here is a paradox of our modern society.

On the one hand, we are more advanced in technology. We invent great things and seem smarter.

But on the other hand, we become more handicapped and less smart. We only know how to push some buttons and let the computer or other devices tell us what it is and what to do. We are helpless without them.

Meanwhile, if any mechanically talented reader has an idea of what my van's problem could be, I would be interested in hearing about it.

At least I can then tell the Chrysler dealership where to look for the problem and possibly to fix it. I don't want to drive my van and have to worry about safety for myself and other people.

I still think our human brain is smarter than the computer, because we can think while the computer can only do what the brain has programmed it to do.