A young man who came out to treat my place for yellow-jackets (which chewed me up pretty well a couple of weeks ago) and scorpions (which haven’t bitten anyone yet—and aren’t going to get a fair chance from me) made a fascinating comment as he busied himself about windows and corners. His father, he said, had retired from working for a power company when he was posted out west to windmill land. Seems that Dad soon noticed a rash of unusual cancer cases (I think lymphoma was mentioned). Everybody who worked around the wind rigs appeared to contract this cancer sooner or later. The phrase, “a weird kind of static electricity,” was used.
Well… why don’t we start assigning numbers to incidents where a technology supposed to save us or vault us up the next step of the utopian staircase turns out to introduce new miseries? This would be… what? Surprise #8, or 9, or 25? Or 587? But we can’t really number them, because most instances are never acknowledged—are, indeed, suppressed. Consider the effects of “devices” on Generation Omega. The official word is that everything’s looking up, of course: even as our children morph into vegetables whose brain has been shifted to an exoskeleton via their iPhone, the “smartphone” remains a high-tech superhero. My squash are smart enough to know that some among them are male and some female; but the professors who teach your and my children are so cerebro-nullified as to preach that gender is inculcated by culture and parental pressure. So, squash of the world, please accept my apology for equating human intelligence to a vegetable’s.
(And vegetables have a keener sense of proportion, too: they won’t demand that I attend re-education camp for my “offense”.)
Now, I want the Internet revolution and its supporting cast to succeed. Here I sit pecking on an iPad… and my publishing adventure with Amazon has so far produced almost entirely positive results for me. My son is probably on track to land a very respectable job after his intensive course in Java script (completed a year after his B.A. in Business Administration, which yielded nothing but a series of dead-end gigs hawking dubious services).
The problem, as I see it, isn’t with “progress” per se: it’s with the reckless, even insane abuse of progress by progressive ideologues whose behavior smacks strongly of cultism. We’re not ready to colonize Mars, yet hundreds (maybe thousands) of young people are volunteering for an Elon Musk suicide mission, or at best a one-way trip which would leave their parents without so much as a grave to visit. Intergalactic Fleet Commander Jerry Brown, when not waging war on straws, is decreeing that sources of energy like the windmill become our exclusive dynamos by a particular date he’s circled (or nailed with a dart) on his calendar. Such zealots are demanding that the technological fix evince an efficiency for solving timeless human problems of which it’s simply incapable. Their play’s script—their religion’s credo—requires a miracle… so, by God (by Jobs, by Musk), what we see here is a miracle! Miracle-deniers will be prosecuted. Pretty soon they’ll be burned at the stake.
Meanwhile, our petty lives—I mean those of us in Nobody Land, where the toxic fumes of the Mars booster settle—fight almost daily to make “old” technology (whatever that means now) do what it should. My wife made three trips to the Verizon store—physical trips—before she could load more minutes onto her Mesozoic not-so-smart phone. Our power bill last month was $0.19 (as in nineteen pennies) because Georgia Power’s system had overcharged us the previous month; but GP agreed to shift that exiguous tally to this month without penalty because, otherwise, our bank’s automated nerve center would carve a dollar out of our account for having to mess with a sum so close to nothing.
And so it goes, as we prepare to populate Mars with genetically enhanced movie stars. My own techno-fencing matches have lately involved trying to secure the site of The Center for Literate Values (a defunct organization whose archive I strive to maintain) from ruinous hacking. I was at first just shrugging off the daily notices of failed attempts to log in to the dashboard… but then the notices arrived three and four times a day. I decided that changing my password from a Gaelic proverb to a 30-digit string of random letters and numbers would be advisable. Yet yesterday the log-in (or login, as we now must write) records showed that some gremlin had successfully come a-visiting at 2 a.m. Inexplicably, no evidence of vandalism appeared. (Maybe the pixie was tired… or maybe the break-in was done by automation and the Master had not yet noticed its achievement.) I quickly changed the password yet again to something even more random and nonsensical, though by no means convinced that the alarming record was not itself a mere glitch.
How is one to construct a utopia around the results of an ongoing crap shoot? How many times are we going to be required to ignore that our feet are on fire as we scale to infinity and beyond? Some feet, of course, will be much better insulated than others.
I’m glad that I have recoiled somewhat from the lunacy of the “progress” cult to fight yellow-jackets and scorpions; but I also realize, and realize more clearly every day, that the drawbridge isn’t going to pull up behind me. WiFi has pursued us into our stronghold, and no spray, powder, or trap will chase away its nags and demands. My son is “out there”, as well, where the schemes of the lunatic zealots rage like the wildfires whose real-world causes they refuse to perceive. No, it’s not really technology that poses the danger… but how to separate technology from the fantasists who insist on ratcheting it up to sci-fi levels before the keyboard’s battery is checked?
You know… maybe the replacement of humans with robots wouldn’t be such a very bad thing. To a robot, I could talk sense.