By Joe Rector
On MSNBC the other morning, Melissa Lee reported on the impact of machines and technology on our lives both now and in the future. In fact, CSNBC dedicated an entire hour on the subject. I know I’ll sound like an oldster who’s griping about the changes in the world and how this planet is bound for hell with such nonsense. However, my complaint is a bit more on the personal side.
Lee sat in a Cadillac SRX Crossover and allowed the vehicle to drive itself. The car cornered, braked, and accelerated without the assistance of the human behind the wheel. Instead, Lee sipped on a cup of coffee and tweeted on her Twitter account. (That’s another story in itself.) Some folks have said the whole thing reminds them of the cartoon “The Jetsons.” Others marvel at the abilities of the vehicle.
I’m a little different. The last thing I plan on doing is allowing a car packed with computers and lasers to pilot me along the highways. Over my years of experience with computers, one thing has become all too clear: they all fail at some point. My desktop computer took a malfunction dive; my laptop intermittently locks up or is swallowed by a black screen. So, why would I ever take a chance that the same thing happens to my car? The result would be either that this marvelous machine plows into something that sends me to my death or that the replacement costs of those computers would be so high that I would have to choose between a car and eating.
These days we’ve signed over too much of our lives to machines. The majority of us walk around with cell phones in our pockets or hands. Most people want the snazziest ones that have data plans. Then, we spend hours punching tiny keyboards to update our statuses on Facebook or Twitter. The younger generation members sit in rooms with other people and never look up from their phones to speak.
My personal computer is where I spend hours. I write all these things that people sometimes choose to read. I also work on books that I’ve begun. Additionally, the computer gives me a way to edit the stuff I write.
The computer opens up worlds of things, most of which I am not interested in seeing. All I need to do is hit a couple of buttons, and I can purchase any imaginable item. The days of shopping no longer include trips to stores or malls. That’s not good for a country where the obesity rate of citizens climbs each year. All of us could improve our health by pushing away from the computer and walking while we window shop.
Machines in our homes have developed into high tech things that are as temperamental as a three-year-old child. My family once spent a portion of a Christmas Eve watching the snow fall, as well as the temperatures, and freezing because the HVAC unit’s circuits decided to take a prolonged vacation. Televisions die when parts suddenly fail to work. Perhaps as bad as anything, cable and satellite television services are left to the whims of machines that work only when they want to. The appearance of at least one service truck in a neighborhood each day confirms the lack of dependability. We’re left paying a huge bill to watch television programming that might go out at any time, and we become apoplectic when the screen goes blank in the middle of our team’s ball game.
I know that progress is the thing that drives our country. We need it to maintain our competitive edge in the world markets. I also appreciate the conveniences brought by so many new “machines.” However, I’m not blindly turning over control of my life to them. I’ll be the driver of the car, not a computer. If a crash occurs, it will be my fault, but at least I’ll have done my best to avoid it.
Besides, I like driving. My family says it’s just one more thing that I want to control. If I ever tire of the task, I sure won’t turn it over to computers. No, I’ll do what Greyhound has suggested for years: “Take a bus and leave the driving to us.”