Underdog and the Future of Addictive Communications

by Andrew Prokop

Like me, I am sure you’ve seen articles and news stories about how the old Jetsons cartoons predicted the future. Off the top of my head, I can think of:

  • Robot vacuums (can you say Roomba?)
  • Flat screen TVs
  • Tanning beds
  • Talking appliances
  • Video phones

In a moment of boredom/nostalgia, I went on YouTube to see what I could find of another of my favorite childhood cartoons – Underdog. Granted, the artwork is as simplistic as the plots, but there is something about a hapless hero saving the world from evil doers that appealed to me. Thankfully, there were enough videos out there to remind me of why I liked them then and why I’ve outgrown them now.

One thing I didn’t expect was that like the Jetsons, Underdog is filled with devices and gadgets well before its time. As a communications guy, I was especially struck by this episode.

Ignoring the little light bulbs that appear on the tops of people’s heads after entering a “phony phone booth,” think about the implication of how modern communication devices take control of our lives.

I hate to admit it, but my iPhone has become the drug that keeps calling me back for more. I am constantly checking for emails, Facebook comments, stock portfolio changes, weather reports, Instagram photos, Twitter notifications, etc. I recently went out to dinner and accidentally left my phone at home. It felt as if I was walking into the restaurant naked.

Anyway, there isn’t a point to this other than the realization that a dumb 1960s cartoon anticipated the life of a man in the year 2016. Will I drive my milk truck into a telephone pole? I sure hope not, but I’ve heard of far too many accidents caused by texting, emailing, and web surfing while driving.  I’ve seen too many people ignore the world around them because their eyes were glued to their phones.  I’ve seen how they interrupt conversations and destroy the ability to concentrate on anything more that a few minutes at a time.

Perhaps Underdog wasn’t that dumb, after all.  Now, excuse me while I check my phone to see what really, really important thing happened in the last two minutes…