NEW YORK – LIVING – I’m surrounded by robots. I’ve seen “Terminator“ so I know how this ends: with them killing us all. Scientists are already predicting that by 2029, our robots will be smarter than us. This is what you call a slippery slope, folks.
I don’t seriously believe that but I know my iPod can do long division better than I can. Siri can’t, however, give me career advice when I ask for it, so she can’t be that bright. My roomba is no genius either – it thinks my black living room rug is an empty pit and is afraid to fall off the cliff.
I’m amazed when I think about how much technology has changed since I was a kid. My mother once had the same revelation about my grandparents, who were born before television was invented and have since seen us land on the moon and launch our private lives into cyber space. I’m sure they appreciate the astounding progress even they don’t know how to turn on a computer.
I wonder what technology will confuse me when I’m old.
I started out life with cassette and VHS tapes and remember when my family got satellite TV. It had this amazing new feature – a little black box on the screen that told me what show was on, even if there was a commercial! I liken this development to the memory once told to me by a centenarian, of his father lifting him up to turn on his home’s first electric light. Unforgettable.
In my lifetime, Internet was created. That alone is the revolutionary achievement of the millennia, changing a relatively intelligent populace who spent their days reading philosophy and debating world affairs to a group of nimrods who post selfies and photos of their dinner on Twitter and Instagram and a number of other exhibitionist web sites.
The youngest generation, people like my two-year-old nephew, will never know a world without Internet and smart phones and apps. One of my nephew’s first words, in fact, was ”iPad,” and he can easily open its Netflix app and stream one of his favorite cartoons. He even schooled his father about how to find the flashlight app on his iPhone.
I often wonder what the technology of the future will be. If you believe the movie “Her,” we’ll all fall in love with our computers’ intelligent operating systems. Or perhaps we’ll have chips embedded in our scalps and arms that allow us to call people from our brains and scan our wrists to buy groceries.
Though I love technology for its connectivity and the honesty it creates in the world, it does erase anonymity and privacy to an extent (read David Egger’s The Circle for a really creepy prediction about where we’re headed). And of course, it makes us over-share.
My hope as I turn into an old person is that we start to rebel against technology before we completely succumb to it.
I read once that young people who continually use their smart phones are slowly losing the ability to form memory. Because they are constantly stimulated – pulling out their phones to get them through the painful slog of a two-minute wait in line – their brains never relax long enough to store daily events in their long-term memories.
Maybe someone can create an app that will remember for us, taking clips and snippets from our everyday lives so we don’t have to go through the trouble. That would make life so much easier.
And then, computers will surely have the upper hand.
Shelley Mae Hazen