Contributed by Ron Baecker, an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, co-author of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).
My family is widely separated. I live in Canada. My brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and their families are in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; my cousins, their children, and their families are in Argentina, Spain, England, and on both coasts of the USA. Typically, I visit my niece and nephew once or twice a year; I manage a trip to Buenos Aires or Bilbao, Spain, about every 3 years. But not recently. I therefore Facetime with either my nephew or my niece almost every week. We also are about to have our fourth global family Zoom. This started out to celebrate individual birthdays, with great spirit and feeling of bringing the family closer together. The next event will celebrate 3 birthdays — ages 78, 41, and 9 — and a recent birth in the family in London. The 9-year-old birthday event will see us participating in a day-long scavenger hunt. What fun!
Approximately two months ago, I had brunch with a friend and colleague — Fred, not his real name — who I had known for over 40 years. I had not seen him in six months. Over the space of an hour, he received at least six calls on his cell phone from family members. Based on what I could hear of his responses, no interruption dealt with an urgent matter.
Several times a year, I have dinner with dear friends of over 30 years, a vigorous professional couple in their 70s with accomplishments in the arts, the sciences, and public service. Ann — also not her real name — is constantly using her phone to google for facts that will contribute to the conversation. Her fact-checking is typically interesting, but is there a cost?