Mixed Feelings on Tech

For a long time, I was skeptical, even critical, of technological progress. I saw cars taking over the landscape and polluting the air. I saw people turning into Kewpie dolls in front of their TV sets. I saw countries’ wealth and brain power devoted to inventing ever more awful weapons.


In short, I was a real killjoy about technology. And now I’m totally dependent on it. All my work depends on the Internet and computers. Most of my connection with the world is by telephone and computer, too.

Just as important is my mobility scooter. I couldn’t leave the apartment without it. Without modern technology, most of it developed quite recently, I would be isolated, dependent on family to keep me going.

That got me to thinking about other helpful technology, like blood glucose meters and insulin pumps. How much of a difference have these devices made in your life? How much does being able to check your blood glucose help you? What other technology has really had an impact on you?

I’m glad I have my scooter, but I sure hate needing it. Because when you rely on technology, you are really in trouble when it breaks down. Right now I’m getting ready to go to Louisiana and Alaska to speak, and my scooter is on the fritz. The battery runs down so fast that I really don’t want to have to go more than a couple of blocks. I’m not feeling safe about the trip, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it.

And what about you? What happens when your pump breaks down? Do you worry about malfunctions or about glucose meters giving wrong results?

I don’t like being dependent on machines, but pretty much everyone is, not just people with health conditions. If you need a car to get to work or obtain food, you know what I’m talking about. People think they’re mobile even though they never walk a block.

I just wish all these technological wonders were sustainable. But probably they’re not. Look at food. Some scientist discovered how nitrogen helps plants grow, and when oil was discovered, some chemists found that it was full of nitrogen. Then technology took over and created fertilizers and the other agricultural chemicals that help grow all this wheat, corn, and sugar that we eat.

Now we’re almost literally eating oil. The stored energy of millions of years is being dug up, turned into food, and fed to us. It’s nice to have all that food. It’s enabled world population to triple in 100 years. We probably wouldn’t have Iron Chefs or a Food Network without it.

But it’s making us sick. It’s leading to overfarming and destruction of cropland. And it’s not sustainable. The oil will run out, and even if it doesn’t, our soaring population will run out of water or other necessities. No species can expand forever, not even a technological one.

I guess I’m like everyone else. I want to have a fulfilling life, and technology helps me. I couldn’t give it up if I wanted to. If I had to give it up, I wouldn’t last long. Does that make it right? I don’t know.

How technological are you? If you are dependent on technology, how do you feel about that? Are there things you could do without, or new technologies you are hoping to see in your lifetime? Are you in line for an artificial pancreas or an islet cell transplant? How has technology changed your relationship with diabetes? Your life?

Check out my new column on dealing with lows in the context of sex.

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  • CalgaryDiabetic

    I was really depressed by the inaccuracy of my Contour meter when I got the lab comparaison yesterday. I seem pointless to test if the result can be 8 or 7 or 9 mmol/L. Makes good control impossible.

  • Peter

    Good post. I think many of us who work with technology are in fact closet Luddites because we get so frustrated at times. However glucose meters set an interesting business model for the companies that manufacture them that actually are beneficial for those of us with diabetes. Since they really make their money through the test strips almost every manufacturer will gladly send you an extra meter for free. You can also usually get them for free from your endocrinologist or C.D.E. Since I live in a two story house and keep my main meter with my insulin downstairs but sleep upstairs I have a second meter for those middle of the night “bad” feelings so I can test myself without even getting out of bed. It’s saved me a couple of times when I had really bad lows and probably would not have made it downstairs. When on the phone with the manufacturer of my meter I explained this and the rep offered to send me another meter (which would make it a 3rd one for me) so that I would have a spare “just in case I had an issue with a meter dying on you.” The meters tie you in to the manufacturer so it behooves them to give you an extra or to replace it for you once every year or so for free. I’m sure that there are other examples of this and I know that your scooter company won’t give you an extra one for back up but their customer service set up should be concerned with your having a working unit and fixing it in a rapid manner. Just FWIW.

  • Margaret Reier

    Dear David: I found these blog sites just today. I guess I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at this point and when I saw your site I realized I might have found a kindred soul. I have MS and type 2 diabetis, thyroid problems, glacoma, and the list goes on. I am aiming for tighter control and have my A1c to about 8. Still working, but boy, I don’t know which disease gets the attention. When I work on one the other acts up and so on. I can’t take prednisone for my MS sympotms because it can dangerously raise blood sugar and pain and stress raise blood sugar. The work I do, the family needs I have all raise blood sugar. I’m afraid to eat because it seems no matter what i do I only get minor improvements. I am overweight and the pain of the MS limits how much and how long I exercise. Is there something one can do?

  • john Butterworth

    I have been diabetic for 43 years now. Growing up the only way to test your blood sugar was to drive to the lab. I also attended diabetic youth camps where they tested often.I used to zone into how I felt and what was going on with me = moods,thirst,thoughts,all things within me when I found out what the blood sugar result was. I got very good at guessing what my blood sugar was and it was usually within 50 units of the actual sugar. Since the time of personal testers and more now with the new testers I have lost the ability to guess my sugar and be even close to the actual number. I got scared when my tester and strips were lost with no money to get another right away! I test to often and rely on the number to count calories and with some math know how much regular insulin to take. Most of the time new technology is Great but for the first time from the experience I felt maybe it wasn’t!

  • Will Ryan

    Thanks for your post, David. I went to work for IBM in 1962 and technology has been a part of my life ever since. For the past few years, my pump and meter are indespendible tools for my BG management and I’m grateful for them. My meter communicates with my pump and then my pump sends all the data to Medtronic where I’m able to obtain great reports that are all part my process. I began my diabetes life in 1979 as a type 2 and have since migrated to a type 1. Please visit my web site http://www.joyfuldiabetic.com for more about my journey.