Modern technology has showered us with innumerable blessings. Where would we be without such labor-saving devices as TV remotes, garage door openers and those spiffy, digitally-controlled exercise machines?     
     But a blessing can also be a curse. As with so many other things, we must bear in mind that while a little may be good, a lot is not always better.     
     Take what happened to me one autumn some years back. I had finished corn harvest and decided to treat myself to a cup of joe at the Koffee Korner, my hometown java joint. I thought it would be nice to have a donut, catch up with the latest news and compare notes about yields.     
     As I pulled up, I noticed that the weathered Koffee Korner sign had been replaced with a gaudy LED gizmo that blared “Gigabytes.” Strange.
     I stepped inside and was taken aback. The grungy little joint had been totally transformed. The battered old booths had been replaced by gleaming high tables. Men in seed corn caps sat on tall chrome stools, staring at their laptops and smartphones. Everybody was so engrossed that nobody noticed when I walked in.
     It suddenly hit me: my favorite coffee shop had been transmogrified into a small-town version of an internet café. I was about to leave when I saw that a particularly intent crowd had formed around one laptop. My neighbor, Ed, was part of the scrum, so I moseyed over to investigate.     
     “Hey, Ed,” I said. “What’s going on?”     
     “It’s Floyd,” Ed said without taking his eyes off the screen. “He’s combining his last field of corn.”     
     “What’s that got to do with that laptop?”     
     “Didn’t you see his Facebook announcement?” said Ed in a tone that reminded me of our kids when we interrupted their Nintendo time. “Floyd is sending all the data from his combine’s yield monitor and GPS transponder through his smartphone. That plus the live feed from his Combine Cam are being continuously uploaded onto Floyd’s YouTube channel. We’re watching his harvest in real time.”     
     The bottom of the screen was chockablock with indecipherable graphs and charts.     “None of that looks like a corn harvest to me,” I said.     
     “See that graph?” Ed said. “It’s constantly tracking the thickness of the corn husks. The pie chart next to it is showing the average size of the dents in the kernels. The bar chart below that is Floyd’s gross dollars per minute using up-to-the-second prices from the CBOT. Floyd’s harvest can be broken down into cents per second, bushels per square inch, you name it. Isn’t it great?”     
     My brain nearly short-circuited from the digital overload.
     “You have to be kidding,” I said. “You mean a guy can’t come in here anymore and brag about how this hybrid was a bin-buster or complain how the crop on his south 40 burned up? You’re taking away a lot of the fun if a farmer can’t fudge a little.”     
     Ed simply continued to stare absentmindedly at the screen.     
     “Whatever happened to the good old days?” I said. “What happened to the romance of a farmer getting actual dirt under his fingernails? Has farming been reduced to a virtual reality?”     
     “Now that you mention it,” Ed said. “Floyd said he’s going to install a cybernetic controller in his combine so he can operate it remotely. Next fall, he said, he’ll be able to sit on his couch while he harvests his crops. And when he’s done, he’s going to use custom-built gaming software that will enable him to rerun the growing season with different variables. He’ll be able to see how things might have turned out if he’d gotten an extra inch of rain or if he hadn’t wasted all that time watching funny cat videos on his corn planter’s monitor.”     
     That did it. The last thing I needed was a machine that has the ability to second-guess my second guessing. As I turned to leave, I took one last look around.     
     The joint was as quiet as a cave. Silent men sat and stared, their faces illuminated by a flickering glow. I feared the much-ballyhooed global village might consist of people who are isolated amidst a sea of connectivity, a culture that has become lost in a maze of hyperlinks.     
     Farmers will no longer brag about acres or bushels or horsepower. Instead, they will boast of things like 5G or gigahertz or who has the biggest smartphone screen.     
     I ruminated upon the perils of the so-called Information Age during my drive home. And, I told Siri to order me a new slide ruler.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.