Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Sad Irony of James Kim

A big story that has been all the buzz recently was the tragic death of C-Net editor James Kim. He is a gadget expert who worked for a major website, providing insightful commentary on items such as mp3 players. He died when his family became stranded in a snow storm, and he was unable to survive when hiking for help.

Here are the two tragic ironies I see in this story:

1. It was probably Mr. Kim's cell phone, more than any other single thing, that killed him. After reading the details of the story, including from his surviving wife, part of the thought process in their selecting the treacherous driving route that they did, was that they had a cell phone that they presumed would save them in a worst-case scenario. The cell phone was never able to establish a signal, and even the ability to ping the phone was not enough for rescuers to locate them in a stationary location for more than 9 days. So in many ways it was a gadget that killed the gadget expert.

2. Of the dozens of gadgets that could have saved Mr. Kim (GPS device, satellite based internet or cell phone, etc.), he ultimately found himself stranded and hiking without any of them. Stories have surfaced about several things within less than 2 miles that would have saved them, had they known about them (cabin stocked with food, etc.). So it was a lack of full information, by way of a lack of useful gadgets, that killed the gadget expert.

Those who know me know that I am not a big supporter of cell phones. One of my biggest knocks against them is that people rely on them, inevitably resulting in a lack of proper planning. For example, no one ever seems to set up a meeting place/time anymore. They just agree to communicate via cell phone. So the whole event is one dead battery away from chaos. Similar arguments are obvious when people come to rely on their GPS navigation devices. If anything can be learned from this tragedy, maybe people will take a hard look at their devices and re-evaluate how much they should be relying upon them.


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