By Nicholas S. Racheotes
By the time you read this, it will be obsolete. In preparing this technological assault on your consciousness, I might have taken a road trip to Silicon Valley, spent hours among the robots at MIT, or dropped in for a briefing by my friends on Route 128 in Massachusetts, which is immodestly referred to as America’s Technology Highway. Why bother? You can learn all you need to know about that stuff on your phone. The only thing you can’t do on your phone is make a call. If you’ve ever asked, “Can you hear me now?” then you know what I mean.
Instead of traveling, I’m picking up my pen (What’s a pen?) to go into print (What’s print?) with some random thinking (What’s thinking?) between crashes of my operating system. I love what’s been happening since my college graduation in 1969! Once, only blind people were reading talking books. Now, everyone is doing it. Once, you had to listen for hours until you heard your favorite song on the radio. Now, everyone is their own disc jockey (What’s a disc jockey?). Once, persons with no use or limited use of their hands were wishing, hoping, and praying for a device that would take dictation. Now, everyone is a dictator whose virtual servant is asking in a computerized bedroom voice, “How may I serve you?” or some other virtual words to that virtual effect.
This might seem cynical so far; however, I have not come to bury technology but to praise it.
When Edison was perfecting the lightbulb and the phonograph (What’s a phonograph?), the US of A was agonizing over the question as to whether to back the greenback with gold or silver. Today, US currency is backed with current. I work. My employer electronically sends my pittance to the bank. I charge (get it?), and the bank sends electricity to my creditors. In the digital world, filthy lucre never stains my fingers.
Once upon a time, the Rolling Stones sang, “Who wants yesterday’s papers?” Today, few people seem to want newspaper of any kind. Yesterday’s news occurred thirty seconds ago. And, chances are, if you belong to the right social network, you can make your own news, complete with pictures.
What used to be the perquisites of privilege are now common among us commoners. Once, Richard Cory and his ilk were chauffeur driven. Today, we are within an expectorating distance of driverless cars. Before this pen (Do you remember my pen?) runs out of ink, machines will be dreaming of other machines, talking to one another in ways beyond our imagination, and, more than they already do, programming us. Wait, I just got a text. I’m supposed to be somewhere in five minutes. Will a future scripture proclaim that humanity would have been fine, “if it hadn’t bit the app?” I doubt it. Anyway, got to go because my phone just told me so.
— V —
Nick Racheotes is a product of Boston public schools, Brandeis University, and Boston College, from which he holds a PhD in history. Since he retired from teaching at Framingham State University, Nick and his wife, Pat, divide their time between Boston, Cape Cod, and the Western world.