Tag Archives: technology

New technology? Sign me up.

I’d absolutely wear an iPhone watch. Why not? It’s the natural next step in terms of smart technology. I remember the last time I tried to draw a line in the sand, telling myself, “No, that technology is just too much. It’s not for me.” It was back in 2007 when the original iPhone came out. Everyone was making a huge deal, about how this was going to change everything. I looked at my Nokia black-and-white brick and I thought, you know what? I’m good. Not only do I not need an iPhone, but I don’t want one.


And then my mom got me one for Christmas that year. And I instantly fell in love. It really did change everything, and chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about. Because everybody has a smart phone, and everybody can remember his or her first. It’s amazing, having a little computer in your pocket that does whatever you want. Not only will I never look back, but I’ll never so no to technology again.

So bring on the iWatch. Maybe I won’t wear it immediately. It’s the same thing with the Google glasses. No, I don’t want to be part of that first generation of early adopters. First of all, that stuff is really expensive. And as we can see with most first generation products, the manufacturers deliberately leave out cool stuff so they can try to squeeze an upgrade out of you when version two comes out. Like, remember how the first iPad had no camera? Come on.

But while it’s one thing to have a cool phone, it’s another thing to be in the minority of the first wave of consumers willing to go for a piece of wearable technology. I would never want to be one of the first people to have an iWatch or Google glasses, not saying that I don’t want, because every time I’d put them on, I’d be conscious of the fact that nobody else has this stuff yet. And so I’d be attracting a lot of unwanted attention. I mean, I know that the first time I’m on the subway and I see someone wearing a computer watch, of course I’m going to be staring at it.

But as soon as it’s even somewhat commonplace, I’m in. Sign me up for the watch and the glasses. I’ll take both. Once it’s no longer weird for people to twitch their heads or however you’re supposed to operate these hands-free devices in public, you’ll see me twitching and talking to the air and pointing at invisible computer stuff that only I can see. And it’s going to be awesome.

Come on, you know they’re eventually going to invent some sort of a built-in smart technology. And I’ll take that too. I’m not afraid. Let’s say that Apple eventually comes out with an iArm. Imagine, it’s just like your regular arm, right, but it’s a device. Yes, a lot of people might get turned off by the fact that they’ll have to sacrifice their regular arms, but you’ve got to assume that the iArm is going to be able to do all of the stuff that a human arm can do.

You’ll be able to put it in “human mode” or something when you don’t feel like having all of those extra-enhanced abilities turned on. So you can feel with it like you would your regular arm, you could close your eyes and move it around and it would be just like you’d been born with it already implanted.

But why would you ever use “human mode?” It would be like airplane mode for current cell phones, like you only have to ever turn your phone off if you’re at an airport and someone makes you. Because the extra-enhanced abilities would be insane. Like super arm strength. And all sorts of extra sensory perception modes. Just think about it, you’d be able to put your hand into a pot of boiling water to see how hot it is, and you wouldn’t get burned. Or, you could make snowballs one after the other with your bare hands, without getting that feeling like it’s too cold. And then you could use your artificial super arm strength to throw those perfectly crafted snowballs at cars miles away.

I’ll take it. I’ll take anything the future thinks it can throw at me. Will they ever make a technology where you can have your consciousness uploaded into a computer? I’m in. Seriously, sign me up. Put my brain into a superhuman robot body. Tweak my personality so that I’m charming and funny. Make my robot body look like a more handsome version of whoever you think the most handsome guy on the planet is. Give me mental access to a built-in app store, where I can buy new abilities and powers whenever I want. Spider-Man mode for ninety-nine cents? That sounds great.

So please, whenever I hear people talking about how technology is getting out of control, I’m just thinking to myself, come on, of course you’re going to give in eventually. Yeah, you might sound like you’ve got something to say with your speeches about technological dependence or whatever, but I’m calling baloney. Because as soon as that stuff gets popular, everybody’s going to want it, and everybody’s going to have it.

In the future, we won’t have money, and we’ll all be socialists

My ideal vision of the future has always been as its portrayed in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Humanity has transcended all of the petty nonsense that we’re still fighting about today. Poverty has been eradicated. Common diseases are distant memories of a medical dark age hundreds of years in the past.


Technology in the twenty-fourth century (while admittedly looking more and more dated as the twenty-first century marches on) makes everything accessible to everyone. If you want something, you can fabricate it out of one of the ship’s many onboard replicating machines. It’s the same with food, just speak into the box, tell it what you want, and zap! There it is, bon appetit. Entertainment via the Holodeck is so much more immersive than the trivial pastimes we occupy ourselves with today.

And it’s more than just food and games. Transportation is completely reimagined. With transporters and faster-than-light warp drives, traveling to and from work must be a non-issue. People of the future don’t have to take the subway anywhere. The whole idea of commuting is probably as antiquated as a horse-and-buggy seems to subway riders today.

My point in all of this is to look at our own technological advancement. I’m a firm believer that we’re well on our way to not only achieving, but probably surpassing all of the feats of advancement on display in Star Trek. Three-dimensional printers are just becoming a commercially viable commodity, and so the ability to replicate various objects might soon be a reality for the developed world. Similarly, as driverless cars inevitably take over the roadways, traffic, parking, car accidents, they’re all bound to become headaches of the past.

And as technology takes over more and more of the heavy lifting involved with day-to-day life, how is this going to affect the economy, our sense of wealth, our very definition of the word liberty? I ask this because, in Star Trek anyway, everything is free. Futuristic machines are so ubiquitous that it wouldn’t make sense to charge anybody for goods and services. No, the very idea of currency does not mesh with the utopian economy built on a foundation of infinite clean energy.

If we ever get there, or to some version of something like the world they have on Star Trek, how are we going to make that transition? How are people in charge going to give up their ability to demand a percentage of our own personal wealth in exchange for whatever it is they have to be offering? Or will things stay the same way they are now, a group of people at the top taking a greater percentage of what I would argue should be equally divided?

Take transportation as an example. Let’s look at taxicabs. A driver might not own his own car, he might lease it from a central dispatching agent. But in the process of me getting from point A to point B, I’m paying the driver, and ultimately those profits go on to not only sustain the greater taxi company, but to support the driver’s income.

And so what happens when that driver’s job is replaced by a computer? Is the price of a ride going to go down? I can’t imagine any taxi company willing to lower the fare. I mean, the fact that we’re willing to pay a certain price now shows that the amount is somewhat reasonable. So what’s happening in this potential scenario is that the owner of all the taxis, now free from worrying about assuming the liability of hiring drivers, gets to take home all of the profit, leaving a now unemployed segment of the workforce to look for some other means of earning money.

As technology takes over more and more aspects of society, where is everybody supposed to work? It’s just going to increase this divide, that those in power, those currently with wealth, they’re going to maximize and multiply what they currently have, leaving everyone else with a constantly shrinking piece of the pie.

There are signs that it’s happening already. Look at music and writing. When I was growing up, a CD cost about fifteen bucks. I got a physical object, and a lot of people made money producing that object, selling those objects, it was all part of a system. It was the same way with books and booksellers. But now those commodities are largely digital. We’re getting the same product, the same work of art, but there’s no longer the economy supporting the manufacture and sale of those goods.

And the prices aren’t really that much cheaper. Songs are over a dollar each on iTunes, and publishing companies and authors are constantly fighting with Amazon over how much a digital book should cost. Because as technology grows, the idea of currency doesn’t make sense.

I don’t know how they did it in Star Trek, but they somehow got to the point where nobody pays for anything. People with a lot of money had to give up their extreme riches in order for everybody to share in the wealth and utopia ushered in by a golden age of technological progress. I think we’ll eventually have to deal with how that’s going to work in current society. And it’s going to be tough.

If machines do most of our work, is there still going to be that mentality where you have to work forty hours a week? If poverty doesn’t exist, are we still going to judge those least fortunate for their lack of a work ethic? If you had all of your basic needs met and didn’t really have to do anything, would you still toil away at a job that you didn’t like? In Star Trek, nobody has to, and nobody does. They find something they want to do because they enjoy it, and money isn’t a problem. I have no idea how we’re ever going to get there, but I hope that we do, because the future is coming whether we like it or not.

I’m ready for the future

Some people get so freaked out about the pace of technological advancements. But not me. I’m all for futuristic technology. Like the new Robocop movie. I didn’t see it, mostly because the old Robocop was so awesome. But throughout the whole Robocop franchise, it’s like this warning, about technology, about robots and cyborgs. It’s the same with Terminator. “Watch out!” is the message. The machines are taking over.


But me, I’m embracing that futuristic vision. I want to be more machine than man. If they ever need people to sign up as volunteers to have cybernetic implants or whatever, I’d be first in line. Because seriously, I already spend so much time interacting with my computer, my cell phone. Having all of that stuff seamlessly integrated into my body is the next logical step.

Put a cell phone screen in my eyes. It can’t be that hard. Just take out one of my biological eyes and replace it with a smart device. Like, I’d still be able to see regular when I want to, but instead of having to reach into my pocket every time I think I feel my phone buzzing, I could just react and respond without even having to look away from what I’m currently doing.

Just keep adding stuff. I wish I could get a flashlight implanted right above my ears. That way I’d never have to look for anything in the dark. I’m talking bright flashlights, like car headlights. Different colors too. And I want laser pointers somewhere inside of my fingers. So I could just point at something and have it illuminated with a crisp red laser dot.

And I’m so sick of wearing headphones. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have two-way speakers where your ears are? Have them plug in directly to my brain, make them stronger and more sensitive than my human eardrums. No longer will I have to worry about listening to my music too loud. Make it even louder, crank it up, as loud as my brain can take it. And then if I’m sitting there on the subway and someone’s like, “What are you listening to man?” I could play the music outward also.

I wouldn’t even need a voice anymore, not a human one. Just give me one of those two-way speakers and install it where my throat is. So I’d be able to speak in any type of voice that I want. And hook that shit up to WiFi man, that would be great, I could hook up my voice to Google Voice, or to Google Translate, and I’d be able to talk to anybody I want to, in any language, at whatever volume.

No, you know what? We don’t even need speakers. Just make everything Bluetooth, OK, a Bluetooth brain. I want the music streamed right into my head. And if you want to say something to me, just send it over the airwaves, all right, that’s how we’re all going to communicate, it’s all going to be over WiFi.

And I was just going to say something like, replace my arms with really strong robot arms, but then I was thinking, why not just add robot arms to complement my human arms? Give me like four extra arms. I mean, I have all of this space on the side of my torso. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t have six arms. Legs, I think I’m kind of out of space, unless some engineer could figure out where to fit more legs. But yeah, I’d rather have really fast robot legs than human legs.

Just, give me the works, all right, I don’t want to wait around for the future. I want to be the future. I want to be a cyborg, just much better than I’d ever be able to get naturally, by myself. Sign me up, I’m ready for the future.

Let the dog have his bones

I feel bad that my dog doesn’t have an iPhone. I have an iPhone. All that my dog has is a bunch of dumb bones that I bought at Petco. He’s happy with them for a while, until there’s no more liver-flavored paste in the center. After that they just kind of take up space. I try to keep all of his old bones in one central location, but he much prefers it if they’re scattered across the living room floor. I should just throw the old ones away whenever I buy a new one, but I feel like he’s always looking at me, right as I’m about to toss them in the trash, he’s thinking, “Come on Rob, you have an iPhone, you have the Internet. For me, it’s just these bones, and that’s it. You really want to throw them away?”

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And I make it a point to just do it, because I can’t have these bones everywhere. It’s like, even when I think they’re all accounted for, there is always at least one or two hidden away where I’ll never be able to find them. Sometimes I think they’re so well hidden that even my dog loses track of where they are. And it’s like one day I’ll be looking for the remote or for my phone and I’ll lift up the couch to see if there’s any way that it’s maybe stuck deep between the cushions, and out falls a bone, sometimes right on my foot. I’ll go to throw it away but there he is again, he’s so happy to see this particular bone. Even though there’s no more liver-paste, it’s like he totally forgot about this bone.

It’s kind of like when you’re a little kid and your mom makes an effort to really clean out the downstairs closet. And you see that she’s putting your old Nerf gun into a black trash bag. Of course you haven’t played with it in years, but you also haven’t seen it forever. It’s been buried under all of your Lego sets and wrestling actions figures, you’re like, “Mom! Don’t throw that out, that’s such a cool Nerf gun!” and she’s like, “You never play with this stuff, come on, it’s just taking up space.” But you’re insistent, and you kind of even believe at some level that you’ll use it again, but you’re mistaking this nostalgia for a forgotten item with a feeling of genuine interest in a toy that … well, sure, go ahead, fire off a few rounds.

By tomorrow your mom’s going to be looking at this plastic piece of junk lying in the corner, saying stuff like, “See? I told you we should have thrown it out. Now it’s just another piece of clutter taking up visible space.” And so you pretend to play with it for a little while longer, just until she leaves the room, and then you bury it back under the Sit-n-Spin, somewhere you can’t see it. You don’t want to play with it, but you don’t want to face the idea that you’ll never be able to play with it again either.

And yeah, maybe things would have been different if you were a little kid today. But only if you were a kid and you had an iPhone. Would you have had an iPhone? I don’t know. Your mom wouldn’t buy you a Sega Genesis back then, she probably wouldn’t buy you an iPhone. You can just hear it now, “What does a little kid need an iPhone for?”

My dog doesn’t have an iPhone either, and I’m always wondering whether or not he’s secretly jealous, watching me spend so much time staring at my little screen. Why don’t they make iPhones for dogs? Something a little more durable, so he could chew on it while he’s not surfing the web, watching clips of the Puppy Bowl on YouTube, I’m just kind of throwing out dog-related Internet activities, I’m not sure exactly what he’d use an iPhone for, or if it would have the same user interface as human iPhones do.

But even if they did exist, am I really going to spend that much money on a piece of equipment that I’m not even really sure my dog would even enjoy? No, just let him have his bones. Sure, he’s figuring out how to get at that liver paste faster and faster each time, it’s like I can’t keep up with all of the empty bones lying around everywhere. And just last week, I woke up and came downstairs barefooted in my pajamas, my dog walked up to me, but I didn’t realize that he had a bone in his mouth. This one had to have been his biggest bone, and these things are heavy, sometimes too heavy for him to keep in his jaw. And I don’t know if he was just happy to see me, but he walked over with this thing in his mouth and dropped it right on my foot. It hurt so badly, a sharp pain that shot straight up my leg, like I could feel it in my shoulders.

And I wanted to round up all the bones right there and toss them in the trash. But then my iPhone made a buzz, like I got a message or an email, and my dog went over to the coffee table to investigate the sound. For a minute I thought, is he looking at the phone? Is he interested in text messages? At the very least, I thought he looked curious, and maybe he really does want one, and so I forgot all about my foot. I’ve got my technology, let the dog have his bones. So what if the place is a mess? What right do I have to take them away?

All of my music is on minidiscs and LPs

When I was fourteen or fifteen I got my parents to buy me a Sony minidisc player for my birthday. It was cool for about a month or so, I felt like I was on the cutting edge of the future. I remember taking this trip into the city to shop at the Virgin Megastore, one of the only places that actually sold music on the minidisc format. And yeah, there was a minidisc section, half a wall really, right next to the collection of LPs.


I looked through the artists, there wasn’t really anybody that I had ever heard of before. But I went there to buy minidiscs, so I settled on Pearl Jam Vitology, even though I already owned it on CD, it didn’t matter, now I could listen to it on minidisc.

This was right around the time of Napster, when I could dial-up to the Internet and hope that nobody would pick up the second phone line for the six or so hours it would take me to illegally download “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit. Multiply that process by twenty, and bam, I could make my own minidisc mixtape.

They were just like cassettes, but digital. What did that mean? I had no idea, and after a while, the whole process of taking the expensive minidisc player out of the velvet pouch it came packaged in, just so I could listen to the same twenty or so songs over and over again, it began to feel like a chore, one that I couldn’t avoid, because I had asked for this expensive piece of equipment. If I didn’t use it, if I didn’t at least put an effort into getting some sort of satisfaction out of it, then what did it say about me, about my choice in cool presents, in my vision of the future?

It’s like, if I weren’t a little kid when Nintendo’s Virtual Boy came out, I would have been one of the first suckers in line at the video game store. I guess every once in a while some new technology comes out and, even if it winds up failing, there are always going to be a few people stuck with a bunch of leftover useless pieces of hardware.

Years later, somewhere toward the end of college, I decided to swing in the opposite direction, to get into records. It started when I walked past some record shop in the city, I found a bunch of used LPs in a box and I thought, OK, this could be a pretty cool hobby. I think I might have bought Vitology again.

But this was even worse. Instead of limitations, there were way too many options in a still niche field, record collecting. I bought an old record player on eBay. Right after I made the purchase, I found an old turntable in my parents’ basement. Neither of them worked right. I tried opening them up and changing the belts. It was useless. By the time I finally got something to play, I found that if the volume was up too loud, it would cause the needle to skip and mess up the playback.

For a couple of years I had this whole setup just collecting dust in my bedroom. Eventually my parents packed everything up into boxes, who knows, maybe someday my future kids will throw them away after I’m dead.

I don’t even have all of my old CDs anymore. Everything’s online. And it’s so much better. Every once in a while I’ll read an op-ed online, something about how digital music is terrible, how we’re losing so much audio fidelity. I couldn’t care less. I don’t have time to play with manual settings or figure out how to operate all of these different mediums. It’s so much easier to click and play. And besides, all of my headphones kind of suck anyway, so I doubt that I’d be able to even tell the difference anyway.

If I ever get my hands on a time machine, well, I have a list of things I’d like to go back and stop myself from doing. And numbers thirty-seven and forty-two on that list are, “Stop myself from asking for that minidisc player,” and “Don’t walk past that record shop,” respectively.