On a recent trip to the land of my youth, which we’ll call Arvada, I, naturally, found the need for personal transportation and ended up behind the wheel of a Chevy Cruze. It was nearly new, 1300 miles, and prone to turning off whenever the car stopped at a light or intersection.
I found that to be deeply unnerving.
And it wasn’t because it was malfunctioning or a lemon; no, it did it to save energy and boost its MPG, sorry CAFE rating- laudable if you’re into that kind of thing.
Instead of being reassuring, it triggered, in me, deep-set anxieties going back to the days when my POS of a car would inconveniently break down at the most inopportune times-like the middle of an intersection during rush hour-prompting me, and whatever companions I had with me, to push the car out of the way all the while being honked and cursed at. As the Cruze continually auto-stopped, I continually cursed it.
And that’s not the worst of it! Only later, after the car was returned, did I learn that I could have disabled it.
What’s the point here, Dave, assuming there’s a point?
To answer that, let’s move on to the shining new world of inter-connected appliances and information retrieval devices: your Siri’s, and…whatever the hell the rest of them are called. Set aside the problem of Internet chicanery and hackers turning off your heat in the middle of winter for laughs, or watching you watch certain adult media; instead, let’s explore the personal predations we are heir to when the appliances do more thinking than we do.
Are you ready to abdicate your control of the situation? Ready to accede to the car that it knows the best route downtown? Will the fridge fight you on the best temperature for a particular bottle of white wine? What if the microwave thinks you’ve been nuking too many frozen burritos? Somebody’s got to be watching after your sorry ass? What if it rats you out to your significant other? You know, the one you promised you’d give up the burritos to.
Better still, after lamenting your letting all that produce go to waste while consuming those delightful microwave burritos, will your self-appointed overlords then call in a grocery list that is more apropos of a healthy? Will you be ok with that?
These are not idle questions.
At one time, humans, mostly men, philosophers if you must know, although one could easily believe a fair number of women did too even if the menfolk dismissed them, believed that the highest achievement a person should seek is intellectual curious and an understanding of the world around us. Quant, to be sure, but now I wonder if we shouldn’t, at least, in some half-assed measure, continue on that quest. Shouldn’t we be brighter than the oven? Sure that turkey would have tasted better if we hadn’t left it in 2 hours too long, but the memory certainly wouldn’t be so singed in our minds if the oven had been in charge.
Which would only lead to more control, to HAL-9000 like admonitions of our acute failure at those times when we’re more focused on what the Kardashian’s or the Gaines’ are up to. Do we want HAL to cut us off after 6 or 7 beers? Will we be nothing more than vassals at the grill waiting to be told when it’s time to flip that burger? Do you honestly believe that those arch-fiend programmers aren’t at this very minute plotting exactly that?
Master of one’s domain indeed!
©2018 David William Pearce