I missed my Sunday post because my Mac Pro, which is possibly ten years old (no, I’m not sure right off the bat), locked up during an “update” sequence. The Mac doctor informed me yesterday that the old girl will be released from intensive care later today. Apparently this was not the death spiral that I had long anticipated—though I’m still holding my breath; two or three times a month for the past half-year now, I have had to reboot the machine because no cursor was activated in the morning’s first attempt.
All such uncertainty suggests several cautionary lessons to me. Obviously, one is our very high degree of dependency upon technology which few of us understand. Virtually every species of communication is now surrendered to some electronic means of conveyance or other. Without healthy hardware, updated software, electrical service, and functional Internet, we’re plunged into an oubliette of solitude. That’s a fearful degree of abject vulnerability to forces entirely beyond our control.
Naturally, wicked people who might wish to exploit this degree of exposure could readily do so from certain corridors of power. I was alerted in a little box on my screen’s upper right that an update awaited me. I really had no idea just what this update might contain or affect; I almost never have the slightest inkling. The day might come when I’m providing NSA complete access to every word I’ve ever written. Actually, I believe that day came and went about six or eight years ago.
And when people in the know tell me, “Well, at ten years, your Mac has had a good innings,” something in me remains disturbed. Really… just ten years? That is now spoken of as fifty would have been when I was a child. Things are not made to last even a decade. If they do so, we marvel. All of our gizmoes live on a canine rather than a human scale now, apparently. I’ll name my next model “Lassie”… or maybe “Spike, the Goldfish”.
Of course, for many “users” (sounds a little like the world of contraband drugs, doesn’t it?), the mention of a decade is painful not because it implies system failure, but simply because it implies falling out of fashion. Assuming that your present device continues to function in, say, 2025, just think of all the cool new things which you will not be able to do at that point. I possess a PC whose full age is pushing twenty rather than ten, and I genuinely prefer it for word processing since MS Word was designed for its system. The problem is that I can’t take the product of any such work directly to the Internet any longer. Well over ten years ago, the unit’s dial-up connection was already running too slowly to handle the “cool new stuff” of our Cool New World. In fact, as I logged into WordPress using this finicky iPad to write the lines before you, I was asked if I would like an “ap” to open WP. Most cool-new-things are of this variety: they don’t actually improve our work—they simply speed us through the process… which degrades our work at some point, I sincerely maintain, because we grow impatient with careful thought and painful revision.
Yet onward we surge, embracing every generation of shortcuts (bred faster than rabbits on fertility drugs) and spending thousands of dollars with each change. (A new Mac Pro would literally cost me around $2,000). I don’t believe this process to be illustrative even of the notorious “planned obsolescence”: most people, as I say, would have discarded “Lassie” before she collapsed and fixed her sad eyes on me. And when I say “most people”, I mean younger people, primarily. The educated young lead a very costly lifestyle thanks to this dependency upon the latest and coolest… and “conservative” luminaries among us, ironically, approve of such giddy habits, because the economy thrives upon them. Drug-pushers like “users” to become addicts, too, as long as they can pay the bill.
Next time (whenever that is: we’ll see this afternoon if Lassie is up to wagging her tail again), I’d like to pursue the spiritual consequences of a young person’s living in this world defined by flux—by overnight outdatedness. They are many and devastating, in my opinion. Especially after the good long talk I had with my son during one of his (now rare) visits home this past weekend, I feel that I am peering through a window upon a prospect of wealth, abundance, opportunity… and also extreme transience, feather-weightedness, and feverish activity without ultimate objective. The disease I’m seeing may essentially be the one that’s rotting our society and our culture from the inside out.