AT&T has launched an app for iPhone or iPad that apparently allows its U-verse (TV and Internet) customers to control their boob tubes using voice or gesture commands. Voice commands include channel up and/or down, fast-forward, rewind, replay, pause, play, record, and jumping to a specific channel (name or number). This must be a such a relief for those taxed by the arduous task of using a push-button cable box remote-control device. While the iPad-sized interface is a boon, I am sure, for those with seeing disabilities (which makes you wonder how they are able to watch TV anyway) or can't remember where in hell Sundance or BBC are in the channel lineup, it cheats couch potatoes out of the caloric burn they get by trading in a finger push for a screen tap or voice command.
I am the first person to welcome labor-saving devices and technology. For example, my snowblower cuts about five hours off the time it would take to manually clear the driveway (although it does not save me from the "Why don't you hire someone to do that..." refrain from my loving spouse.) Not all new technology is necessarily better (for example, the iPhone 5 mapping app). While those 500-decibel leaf blowers make clearing a yard pretty effortless, they turn your neighbor's Saturday afternoon into a poolside barbeque on the tarmac at LaGuardia.
The problem is that the easier technology makes our lives, the more inclined we are to use it and the higher the likelihood that we will among the nearly 50% of the U.S, population that is already or will be obese in 20 years. Look at the impact the march of technology has had already on the inclination of your kids to go outside and do something that does not involve a screen of some sort. When I was growing up one of the best presents you ever wanted or got was a new bike. Buy one for your kids today and they look at you like the last round of electroshock didn't work.
Now, I am not writing this at my old Royal typewriter with a carbon copy in the roller to send off by snail mail to my editor. I rejoice in the way technology has made my job much easier and efficient than the old days of mass mailings using a sponge to "lick" the envelopes (since you saw what happened to George Costanza's fiancé with the wedding invitations). But at some point you need to walk away from the electronics -- if only to knock off the pounds you now have BECAUSE of the electronics.
I wrote a piece for the WSJ a quarter of a century ago about how high-tech gyms had become and no longer were they a place to smack the body bag or do situps instead of "crunches." These days, if you shed a drop of sweat in a "gym" you are put on probation by the membership department. After all, sweat might compromise the circuit board that claims to calculate and report your "watts" expended while watching the cooking channel and playing Words with Friends during your "workout."
The rest of my family thinks that doing yardwork or household chores are a form of corporal punishment, and flee whenever "a little project" seeks participants. Me, I just think of it as another way to get a little exercise -- especially if it involves 20 trips from the attic to the basement or three hours of moving plants in the garden (I have a very strict fundamentalist Protestant botany policy: Grow and thrive or be replaced.)
While there is not a straight line from an iPad remote control and breaking your back weeding 500 linear feet of garden bed, I can see how the creep of new technology will invite us to spend more time than we already unreasonable do in front a screen consuming chewing gum for the eyes.