Last Call: iBrains, American renaissance and our missing town center

Last Call
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marcfrey150This month I want to follow up on my last two articles and bring light to a local topic.

ibrains

Readers of my column will remember that I wrote about smart phones and how they could, in essence, take control of humans. Just weeks after my predictions were published, an Intel-commissioned white paper about the future of mobile technology concluded that “connected devices interfacing with the human brain is an inevitability.”

Here’s how the paper’s authors, from consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, put it: “As convergence continues across device types, functions, and capabilities, the melding of mobile technologies directly into the human body becomes the logical next step.”

The only question for me is: Who is in control? Humans, the machines or a third-party entity like the government? The fact that researchers believe that this is no longer science fiction but likely to become a reality does not solve the ethical and moral issues that are associated with such advances. Could it be that we are developing technology that is too smart for our own good? I ask because we could ultimately lose control over our own destiny. Then again, maybe I’m simply too old-fashioned to realize that having your own will and privacy are a thing of the past?

I urge you to send me your feedback on this topic.

American Renaissance

On a less controversial note I wrote about the American Renaissance, stating that the U.S. is reinventing itself based on our ability to connect innovation, capital and entrepreneurship into wealth. It was reassuring to see that I’m not the only one believing in this. Just one week after my column hit the mailbox and web, Newsweek’s cover headline on a story by author Daniel Gross read: “Myth of Decline: U.S. Is Stronger and Faster Than Anywhere Else.” There you have it.

Our missing town center

Finally, it is time to focus on a more local topic that should not be missed: A few months back I wrote about “the heart of a town,” pointing out that the re-development of the Mall at Shelter Cove and the surrounding tracks is our last and best opportunity to create a true town center on the island. If you want to experience what a town center feels like, go to Bluffton on a Thursday afternoon/evening. The Bluffton Farmer’s Market and the restaurants that surround it bring out people of all walks to shop for fresh produce, eat some fried shrimp, have a beer, listen to some blues, meet familiar and new faces, and have a good time doing it.

In contrast to such a heartwarming energy center, here is what the Shelter Cove proposal contains: Leave the existing Belk, build a new Kroger’s supermarket, add plenty of parking places and a gas station, scrap the existing Shelter Cove Community Park and build an apartment complex on its grounds, and in return build a miserly public walkway along the marsh.

Does that sound like a town center to you?

I’m starting to wonder if we are grossly overpaying for groceries. How else could you explain that within approximately five square miles Hilton Head already boasts two Piggly Wiggly locations, two Bi-Lo locations, two Publix locations, one Sam’s Club, and one Fresh Market for a total of eight grocery stores along with eight gas stations?

Yet somehow, we look at all this and conclude that we need yet another place to shop for food and yet another place to fill our cars with gas. I know that town council and the town manager will tell us that they have limited power over the situation, but where there is a vision and a will there is a way. It seems that we are lacking both of them, leaving our community deprived of what could have been a truly great opportunity to shape the future of our town.

Unless the public speaks out loud against the proposed plan it will become reality and Hilton Head Island continues its path to make us a more ordinary place where anything outside the gated communities is nothing but a way to conveniently get around by car, park, shop, eat, gas up, and disappear behind the gates again. M