iPads and the Future

iPads are easily one of the most innovative Apple products yet. They are changing the way we do everything from entertaining ourselves to organizing professional business presentations.  There is even talk of the iPad replacing the clipboard in our hospitals. It is staggering to consider the  technological progress of the past 50 years. This quantum leap can’t help but tease the mind with visions of what may come to be 50 years from now.

2052 aside, the things that the iPad and the iPad 2 are capable of today are almost limitless. Besides its basic functions of picture/video taking and its ability to play music, there is an ocean of downloadable applications (“apps,” for short) for pretty much everything under the sun.

Do you want to practice the piano away from home or turn your iPad into a guitar amplifier?

There’s an app for that.

Do you want to pass the time between classes by playing a game?

There’s hundreds — if not thousands — of apps for that.

Do you want to have access to an astrological map that illustrates the constellations and corresponds to where you are pointing it, displaying on the screen exactly what you would see in that same spot come nightfall?

There’s an app for that, and it’s pretty cool.

While all of these things may sound like trivial ways of passing the time, the iPad is an incredibly diverse tool, and it is more than capable of adapting to more demanding fields.

The field of medicine is a prime example. Hospitals are starting to develop and practice the use of iPads in the medical environment. Surgeons can use them to store high quality copies of X-rays.  With the iPad, a surgeon can manipulate the image as needed, zooming in or out in order to get as much as he can out of the image before him.

iPads can also be used in place of clipboards. Instead of managing and keeping track of dozens of separate clipboards, a nurse or doctor could potentially gain access to all their patient’s files via one lightweight device. This application is especially exciting because the electronic storage of patients’ files could give caregivers the opportunity to cross-reference their patients’ files, search for the symptoms of unfamiliar diseases, or even email a patient’s file to a specialist for advice.

The number of uses for the iPad is mind-boggling, and one can’t help but wonder at the ways it will change and evolve to improve our daily lives. Who knows?  Maybe one day everything from international peace treaties to menu choices at a restaurant will be signed or paged through via an iPad.

But while the iPad has the potential for doing a lot of good, I believe it is important for us not to forget the “old ways” of doing things. There is something fleeting and immaterial about electronics. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that when we save something on a computer or other electronic device, we have no physical copy. It just sort of exists as so many bits of information kept in place by a silicon chip. I’m not saying that we need to carve stone copies of everything we type onto our computers or iPads, but I think that a dose of caution when relying on such objects is more than reasonable.

Take for instance the case about using iPads in the hospital.  What would happen if, for some unknown reason, all the information on a hospital’s iPads — current treatment plans, patient records, everything — was lost?  Without any sort of physical back-up to rely on, it would be chaos.

After all’s said and done, the iPad is an amazing technological advancement that promises to pioneer the future of technology for years to come. Just don’t make it the sole foundation to everything you do, know, or need to keep track of.

You don’t want to be without some back-up when the machines revolt.

Spencer Grimes is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at sgrimes@uci.edu.