The New Fed: Superhero or 24/7 puppet?

Thursday - 12/6/2012, 2:00am EST

Fire is a good servant but a bad master. That's a very old saying that is especially true today as we wrestle with the pros and cons of technology and the ability to be in touch 24/7.

I well remember the first portable radio I ever saw/heard! It belonged to a neighbor and was a marvel of science. It was the only one on the block.

The neighbor (a uniformed member of the Secret Service) used to set it out in his yard (shared with four other apartments) in the summer, drink beer and listen to the Washington Senators lose.

When I say it was portable or mobile, I mean it could be moved by two strong men. It was slightly larger than a microwave oven. And longer. But it was portable.

Fast forward to today. Mobile really is just that. Mobile means mobile. Whatever the device is called or however it is configured, it is ready to go and good to go worldwide in some cases.

In the not-so-long-ago days, mobile meant that something could be moved.

Now, mobile means mobile.

It has changed the workplace and society a lot. And forever. In some ways that is great. But there are also social changes — from the dating game and everybody being a tad ADHD to the talking, texting or Googling to determine who in the TV movie you are watching done it!

Case in point:

I recently had dinner with a relatively high-ranking fed. Friday night. Weekend ahead. All systems go. Except her BlackBerry kept going off. She apologized at the beginning, but said her agency had a project for the White House, so ...

The bell tolled half a dozen times. She responded. Apologized, but duty calls. And it called.

In between beeps, we discussed the fact that separation — as in being at work, being at home, being on vacation — ain't what it used to be. Should there be zones where mobile devices don't work. Should there be rules as to when it is appropriate to cuddle up without your mobile device? Can we put the genie back in the bottle? Can we squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube? Should we?

Mobility, the ability to learn and communicate anywhere, anytime over any distance, is a good thing. And it is changing everything — probably in ways we can't imagine — from the workplace to social situations. The government in many instances is at the cutting edge (can you say DARPA) because it must be. In this day and age, the ability to get immediate, accurate intelligence can literally be a life and death issue.

Today and tomorrow Federal News Radio will be taking a look at the world of mobility in a special series: Gov 3.0: It's Mobile. How it has changed government, your agency, your worklife and the nation. Check it out...


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

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