Three Cheers for Technology

I’ll be frank. I’m writing this now because the television is out. Perhaps you, like me, remember a time when the only way your television would go out was if the actual station was hit by a meteor. Or if it was the end of the broadcast day, and, after the Star Spangled Banner, you got static because Roger’s shift was over.

But technology marches on, obliterating all of our “legacy” ways of life in a devastating swath of convenience. Sure, there’s the occasional abomination like Windows ME, but it’s all a part of the process as we approach the Technological Singularity as prophesized by Waukesha, Wisconsin’s own Vernor Vinge in a paper he wrote all the way back in 1993 (the year that Atari released the ground-breaking 64-bit gaming system called Jaguar). Read it here if you dare, and then good luck going to sleep tonight.

The Technological Singularity is also the plot of a new opera called Death and the Powers, composed by Tod Machover and developed at the MIT Media Lab. In it, the main character, powerful business man Simon Powers, upon facing death, decides to essentially upload himself.

The word awesome is thrown around a lot, but in the case of technology, it truly applies. But it does have a down side. Many American jobs were lost not to overseas outsourcing, but, in fact, were eliminated by technology.  

And, let’s face it, occasionally, technology fails. Like it did in the case of my television “provider.” And when it does, the appropriate response would probably be:  “Ah well, these things happen.” But we don’t respond like that, do we? No, generally, we drop to our knees like Willem Defoe in Platoon, and, in a dramatic, pull-away crane shot, cry to the heavens:  “Noooo!”

We fuss and fume like weaning babies, and we demand satisfaction.

To some extent, this reaction is justified. We pay a pretty penny for our technology. Once upon a time, the cost of television was represented only on your electric bill. Today, you could pay upwards of an additional $200 a month.

And even if you accept the occasional glitch, they never seem to err on our side, do they? We never accidentally receive a better picture or more features for the money. No, that would be stealing, and prosecutable to the fullest extent of the law.

When my television goes out, I’m supposed to “reboot” my receiver where “reboot” is defined as:  “Unplug it, and plug it back in again.” I’m an excellent “rebooter.” Yesterday, I “rebooted” on six separate occasions.

Much like you can’t keep someone alive by repeatedly defibrillating them, eventually, “rebooting” is bound to fail, too. And when it does, you need to find a source of technical support where “rebooting” is not the first 100 options. This usually requires a phone call.

The last time I was forced to make such a call, I was given the option of speaking to a “customer service representative” immediately by pressing “0.” Today, thanks to technology, I was thoroughly screened by a genial, baritone robot.

What followed was 20 minutes of speaking in common phrases and answering yes or no questions. My patience at an end, every answer contained a colorful expletive.

“What is your name?” he asked with concatenated politeness.

“Dylan (expletive) Bolin.”

“What is the nature of your problem?”

“No (expletive) picture.”

“Please wait while I run a few tests.”

“This is (expletive) (bovine waste-based expletive)!”

“Okay. I’ve run the tests. I’m going to need you to reboot the receiver.”

“Listen, HAL, (Aggressive expletive) you, you (adjective form of the previous expletive) (explative)! (Long-winded expletive that was technically frustrated gibberish, but actually might work as a good new expletive)!”

“Did you say you wanted to speak to an agent?”

I swear that conversation actually happened.

I don’t know if I said that I wanted to speak to an agent or not. I’m sure, in the course of spitting a 3 minute expletive, I said a lot of things, and it’s possible that something sounded a lot like “agent.”

Anyway, I was connected with Francisco. I don’t know if Francisco heard me or if there was a record of the previous conversation for him to reference, but he briskly skipped right ahead to:  “We can have a technician over tomorrow.”

So, here it sit, like an Amish farmer; an Amish Farmer with internet access.

(Expletive) yeah, baby!

-Dylan

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