Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My little servant

I think I'm more interesting than the electronic gadgets I carry around with me, but maybe I'm just bullshitting myself. They are pretty interesting. They may not contain as much information as I do up in my noggin, but their information is a helluva lot more orderly. They keep those beautiful bytes of theirs stacked up like muffin trays. That's a big plus when you've got to retrieve something in a hurry. Nowadays, it seems that you've got to retrieve everything in a hurry cuz nobody is willing to wait one extra sec for anything. Gimme my answer now. Wah-wah. When it comes to instant retrieval, people are definitely less reliable than their gadgets. I ask somebody a question and they reply, Hey, don't ask me. I tap a query into my iPhone and it gets back to me right away. Sweet.

Because gadgets focus on one question at a time, they process information faster than I can. I tend to get confused and mix things up. Sometimes this confusion leads to fortuitous metaphors but most often it simply results in a foggy notion of reality, my mistaking dreams for actuality, wherein objects far away appear close and one glance in the mirror might result in a year's worth of therapy. It's dangerous being human -- we get distracted and we're prone to error, unlike our gadgets. And if you make too many errors, they lock you away in an effin cubicle and let you lick stamps all day, or play "businessman" with little Excel spreadsheets, or, worse yet, let you wear a bedsheet and wander around at dusk like ghost. I see thousands of error-prone humans every day in New York City, clutching onto their gadgets for dear life, trying to remember where they are and how they got there. Boo.

Maybe I'm sad today because I am less interesting than my iPhone. It sits there in my pocket ready to jump into action, its little brain filled with useful information, its little battery full. And here I am, dead as a doornail. My mind is empty. This isn't some Zen shite I'm talking about, my mind is really empty: I was so worn out by trying to fit all the new stuff I'm supposed to know into my weary gray matter that I went ahead and threw out all the old stuff and loaded it onto a hard drive. I'm sure I threw the baby out with the bath-water, but I couldn't remember the baby's name anyway. Now that's sad. When my friends call to say hello, I thank my lucky stars I've got caller ID so I can tell who they are. When I go out, I wear a vapid smile and crack techno jokes to make it seem like I'm with it, but inside I'm a jellied mass, scared that someone will ask me a question my phone can't answer.

I'm no longer sure that my friends like me for myself (whatever that is). Quist would say, "The self - now that's an effin joke in an age like ours. People carry computers in their backpacks, not selves." I never knew what he meant by that, but it sounded good. I know that my friends like my iPhone, which I can whip out in a restaurant, play around on with my thumb, and get an answer from, an answer to the very question that they'd all been asking just moments earlier. I've been doing it a while now, but it's still cool, especially when one of them says, "I gotta get me one of them things." For a minute or two, I'm the most interesting guy at the table.


  1. I am as dependent on the technology as anyone else. And yes, there are benefits. For example, the devices and networks enabled you and me to reconnect.

    I depend on these devices to make it through every day since the technology has set demanding expectations for those of us in the mainstream. I start my day with calls and emails from my clients and colleagues in Europe. As the earth revolves, my North American clients and colleagues occupy midday, and I end my day with calls and emails from Asia. Throughout the day, Google and internal databases are my lifeline for content I need. How did I survive the first forty plus years of my life without all this techno-wizardry?

    I am far from a Luddite. However, we should treat these marvelous devices as "idiot savants" and nothing more. I find it particularly humorous when people become emotionally attached to these mindless machines.

    Gotta get off this break and read some more email that my idiot savant slave is serving up to me.

  2. Another quick thought. Modern urinals, toilets, and wash basins are more aware of my remote presence and often respond more ergonomically to my needs than my idiot savant mobile device.