Microchips Breaking Your Face
My friend Andres has a large, benevolent, yet terribly unintelligent dog named Kimba. Once, he noted to me as he luxuriously rested his feet on Kimba’s back that, if this dog ever wanted to, it wouldn’t have even the slightest difficulty in ripping our faces off. And as Kimba sat there mechanically panting away and staring off at the wall like it was the most exciting thing since feeding time, I thanked the unknown past for the centuries of evolution that put me in a chair — and Kimba on the floor.
Because this dog is big. And even as the animal’s tongue uncontrollably hangs limp and pulsating out of its mouth, you can see some frighteningly sharp, carnivorous bicuspids inside that powerful jaw. Yet somehow we, the weak mammals with opposable thumbs instead of paws with thick sharp nails, have the authority to tell this dog to sit and roll over. If the dog knew any better, though, it could tear us from limb to limb.
So, we playfully abuse it. We take its toys and make it run after them, and we get it to stand on its hind legs and dance while Kimba’s expression remains as that same seemingly-drug induced blank stare. I have no problem grabbing Kimba’s face and friskily moving it around while I tell the dog in the most affectionate way possible that it has the brainpower of one unmentioned presidential candidate. But when I first come to the door and hear Kimba bark at the uncertainty of who’s behind the hinged entrance, I am genuinely afraid of this beast.
Our situation with Kimba is eerily familiar. For the most part, we also have technology wagging its tail at us. Full houses can be operated from remote control, businesses do the majority of their dealings thanks to e-mail and worthwhile computer software, and just about everything important to us — bills, bank balances, all kinds of communication — now exists as a long string of data on some hard drive. If a computer does a bad thing, we just simply do the technological equivalent of dropping three octaves, yelling “bad boy!” and executing the a smack on the butt; we call technical support.
And although we all make computers print out what we write, keep track of our business, and put together just about anything we damned near please, we as a collective humanity are deeply and tumultuously afraid of the technology we’ve become so weaned upon. At any point in time, the computer could lose all data we’ve worked so hard to have it store. It could get a virus, it could just cease operations, or it could actually physically explode. In simpler terms, the computer that you play Solitare on in your spare time could, if it knew any better, virtually rip your face off.
And we know it. Since the first inklings of technology started being introduced into society, we’ve been afraid. The technology of the Stone Age was that of the finely crafted stone-on-a-stick, which would, in the wrong hands, have no qualms about bashing your nose into your cranium. Samuel Morse, the inventor of Morse Code, had the honor of sending the first encoded message across a wire. He sent the message “What hath God wrought?”
The much-debated “creator” isn’t even an issue anymore; It seems, as our new creator, technology seems to be taking His place. When life was simpler in 1000 A.D., people gathered on top of a mountain at the dawn of the century to witness what they expected to be the end of the world. One thousand years later, there are still plenty of people who are expecting much of the same thing, but not nearly as many as the population that’s begging forgiveness from their PC. And call me an atheist, but I just don’t foresee an omnipresent being coming down, thanking everyone for their continued prayer and support, and then turning the works of Beethoven and Shakespeare and everything we’ve ever known to be true into a fiery ball of fury and destruction.
So what we have left to worry about are the three characters that sound like some kind of code from the Masons, or at least some awfully elusive rendition of the old Budweiser advertising campaign. We have worked ourselves into a tizzy over Y2K.
And honestly, I doubt the end of the world will come by way of microchip. We’re just afraid of what we don’t know, and we don’t know a lot. According to Einstein, that’s why man created the concept of God in the first place: making it only natural that, this day in our information age, we’d have replaced our fear of the unknown watcher with the unknown software program. Technicians under Bill Gates’ payroll know a lot, but the general population doesn’t even know where the “any key” is — let alone how to reprogram complete computer diagnostics. This is why we assume the apocalypse is going to come streaming through our illuminated and static-ridden monitors; we don’t personally know how to fix it.
But isn’t everyone getting a little ahead of themselves here? Countless movies and books and comics depicting the massive destruction in thanks to technology-gone-awry hasn’t quite prepared us for the worst, but it’s made us come to expect it. The drop of the big apple and fountains of confetti aren’t going to mean the inauguration of a real-life version of War Games or the signaling of a thousand-year Dark Age. The whole situation won’t mean any of this, because although a computer can frustrate one to no end, it can’t actually physically rip your face off.
What is the worst that can happen? The phone companies charge us for a century’s worth of usage and our electricity goes out for a week? Maybe the banks will lose track of everybody’s money, and the world will go broke while NationsBank looks in their drawers and scratches their heads. If it’s inconvenience that everyone’s so afraid of, then maybe we do have something to get our collective panties in a bunch over. As we get irritated and start screaming obscenities while our home computer takes an extra half a second running a program, it looks as if we might all just spontaneously combust when the things turn off for a week.
I have faith that people will fix the problem, if there ever is one. Phone companies will be aware you don’t owe them three billion dollars, and the banks will work overtime to re-enter all records into their new, 2000-friendly systems. Even if systems worldwide suddenly assume they’re at the dawn of last century, it doesn’t exactly mean that all our manipulated metal and monstrous pollution machines will vaporize and require re-inventing. They’ll still be there. Someone will just charge incredible amounts of money to figure out how to turn them back on. And if we have to sit in the dark for a while, then we’ll light some candles and hope they burn for eight days while we remember to order new checks that say 20__ instead of 19__.
When the masses came down from that mountain in 1000 A.D., it’s a toss-up as to if they were relieved or disappointed after not witnessing anything exciting in the finale of all the anticipation of world conclusion. And whatever the adverse affects of not-up-to-date technology will have on us, they just can’t be nearly as bad as everyone’s expecting them to be. Canned foods? Bomb shelters? It’s any wonder the world functions normally with these paranoid crusaders holding down some kind of occupation. Things just won’t be that bad, despite how afraid we are of the soldered-down diodes and out-of-control CD-ROMS that lurk around mysteriously in our computers. Because keep in mind, technology can’t actually rip your face off. Only your dog can.