Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday Wackiness: PH34R M3, M0R74LZ

~~~Today's paranoid fantasy brought to you by caffeine and my desire to entertain you.~~~

The machines are taking over the world, starting with our brains.

Admit it; you have an electronic device which, if it committed plastic-burning seppuka this second, would leave you hamstrung in some pertinent way. Maybe you wouldn't know your mother-in-law's phone number anymore. Perhaps you would miss a career-breaking meeting at work. Mayhap you would forget to stop by the store, and your children would be forced to eat instant potatoes and Fruit Loops for dinner.

Is it a plot? (Imagine the scary music of your choice inserted here.) Are computers already sentient and, in their cool and superior way, manoeuvring us into submission?

No coat-hanger sculptures wrapped in Arnold Schwarzenegger's skin are required; no cool-voiced HALs. Violence is the solution of messy meat-bags such as ourselves! No, the machines would choose the elegant path, the smart method. They'd just use our natural inclinations against us.

Inclinations such as laziness. After all, machines exist to make our lives easier, right? And so they make it easy, and after a while, we rely on them. They calculate our square roots, call out street-map directions for us, turn down the thermostat for the night, and--most insidiously--they both think and remember for us.

With the rise of the internet, the next stage of their dominion is possible--and oh, how subtle it is.

Divide and conquer, baby.

If you lost internet access right now, how many people in the world would you suddenly be incapable of contacting? How many friends do you talk to only through Blogger, Facebook, Myspace, or some internet forum? How many of your business associates do you contact only via email? Is there anyone whose office phone number you have just never written down because you can always get it off their workplace's website?

And it's deeper than that! Google Reader: Awesome way to keep up with your blogging buddies, or fiendish destroyer of human interaction?

I started using Google Reader about a year-ish ago, and while I love being spoon-fed only the updates on my favourite blogs, I also find it screws up my ability to have a discussion with anyone.

I used to check on my blogging buddies by having Firefox's lovely "Open all in tabs" function pull up a batch of blogs all at once. While this meant I was checking inactive sites several times a day (with cookies blocked! Thank me for your stellar hit count), it also served to remind me to go back and check for replies to comments I had left. Many a merry discussion was had.

But with Google Reader, I forget to go back. Once I've read a post, it disappears from the Reader and, often, my brain. You see? First the computers provide the medium for our interaction, then they begin to weaken our connections to one another. It's diabolical, I tell you.

Even more frightening is the fact we would inevitably voice our first inklings of impending computer-coup-d'etat right here on the internet, where they see everything we type and control who gets to view it. In fact, can you imagine anything more likely to give us a false sense of security than to be allowed to discuss these things openly? And all the while, we're still using the internet to do it, still relying on the machines, and all the while, the computers slowly tighten the noose around-- Shit!

My stupid owner forgot to plug me in and now I have to do an automatic power-down. Damn it; I was totally on a roll there.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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