Technology advances, relentlessly and exponentially, and we either advance with it or get left behind. I don’t even mind the left behind, as I am a supporter and practitioner of the slow movement, but I know the world I live in. I can’t pretend I don’t get scared that the robots will take over and just turn us all into their minions. I’ve always thought the most powerful people, the ones who control the economy and the legal system and who knows what else, are about as close to robots as we’d get, the way they shake your hand and speak in that emotionless monotone and carry on as if they might not even know what an emotion is. Then I see videos of machines being more human than these robots, and I’m now waiting patiently to live out our own apocalyptic origin story. So this is sometimes.
When these ideas are getting to be particularly stressful, when I’m a point where I need to dissuade my thoughts and scoff at my paranoia of thinking it will actually happen in my lifetime, there’s one place I like to go – a public bathroom. And not just any public bathroom. It needs to be a relatively fancy one, where everything is automated, because the failure rate on all of those sensors is just out of hand, and this remind me that they haven’t figured it all out yet. The intent a lot of times is for you to not have to touch anything not connected to your body once you enter the bathroom, which I suppose is admirable from a germaphobic standpoint. From the toilet to the sink to the hand dryer to the door, I’m always willing to bop a button to make it do what it does, but the option isn’t there, because we put too much trust in the robots before they deserved it. You end up waving to each porcelain appliance like it’s your best friend who’s across the street and doesn’t see you there, and then you just hit everything repeatedly until it works, which it won’t.
The most frightening technovancement is of course right in all of our pockets, or more likely in all of our hands. The ubiquity of the hyper-intelligent mobile device means that at every given moment, you are securely connected to everyone you know, and you have access to every piece of information that anyone anywhere has ever known. I’m discouraged when people take out their cell phones in the middle of a conversation, in a hypothetical context or in real life. But maybe I do it too. Because we all think we have really important matters to attend to somewhere else. All the time. We’ve turned into a planet of dejected Charlie Browns, staring down, arms unswaying, safe in our bubbles, as the world around us mutates without acknowledgement.
All the same, I loathe the propagation of the back-in-my-day bullshit. People were never better. Or worse. People simply are, and always have been. Infinite spectra of quality house everyone, have us all lined up as a dot, gradually making our way up and down. Some objective, most subjective, all real and changing all the time, even the ones that are unknown, underknown or unsure at times. Technology has only allowed given the worst people both anonymity and a platform where you’re more likely to run into them. They just have an easier time executing and disrupting these days, while the righteous immunize themselves in tranquility.
Unfortunately, hyberbole is the only way to get noticed, and people like to get noticed. A “restored faith in humanity” is expressed even in the simplest of cases. Somehow you lost total faith in humans as a species, and still a single good deed, a wallet returned or a bully resisted, restored it wholly. A single person with infinite power to sway. There appears to be no consideration that we all exist on a spectrum. As mentioned, there are good people, bad people, great people, terrible people, and everyone can be any one of them at a time. One action should never have the power to change your view on humanity in general.
We live in interesting times. So has everyone, forever. And it goes.