I have a recurring nightmare. In this episode, I sit down at our family computer. After it boots up and I start my important work (Battle Chess 2006), the screen goes black and a sinister, red face with angry eyebrows pops up and starts laughing monotonically. As it rears its two-dimensional head in electronic throes of evil mirth, all the appliances in my house become self-aware. And we’ve all seen enough movies to know what happens when machines become self-aware. They start to kill humans.
Why is it that when technology becomes self-aware, the first instinct is to destroy humanity? Why not do something constructive, like form a book club?
By this point, I’m battling back an electric stapler, flinging old AOL discs like throwing stars and trying to stop the phone from dialing old girlfriends and insulting them. I duel with a motorized turkey carver, and as it knocks the spatula from my hand and backs me into a wall, I wake up in a cold sweat and realize something.
I am a technophobe.
This is hard to admit. When I think of technophobes, I picture old women sobbing over the blue screen of a 1998 Dell, wanting to write a simple thank-you note to cousin Melba, cursing the day they switched over from the typewriter. I picture my uncle shaking his fist at the parental occupants of a minivan whose offspring are watching Madagascar on their Mondo Vehicular T.V. Child-Distracter.
This is not me, but I walk a slippery slope. I don’t own an IPOD. I think USB is a college. Podcasts sound like a sci-fi movie idea (“Run, Glenn! The Podcasts are hatching!”). The only thing I know about Twitter is how excited it makes sports reporters. ESPN had a 3-day party when Terrell Owens started tweeting.
My apprehension for all things technological stems from ignorance. Ignorance primarily causes fear of most things. An example of this is our friend, the clown. These days, we only see clowns in horror movies, but if we ever really took the time to get to know one, I’m sure we’d find it to be a lovely person. Until it eats our brains.
People who understand technology don’t understand why people like me have such a hard time with it. In the words of William Gibson, “The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” We technophobes want to keep up. We don’t want to be the algae churned up in the wake of progress.
The more I learn about technology, the less scared it makes me, although I’m still convinced there’s a few robots out there trying to take over the entertainment industry (i.e. Kevin Costner, Keanu Reeves). Robots are also most likely behind those awful comments on online news stories, because there’s no way something human could write things so mean or so filled with inappropriately “placed” quotation marks.
Technology is not all bad, though, and if we try hard enough, we can find multiple uses for it. For instance, earlier this week, I came down with the flu, and my body was overcome by the shivers. I was colder than an Eskimo’s ex-girlfriend, and no amount of blankets and layers of pajamas could warm me. I looked around frantically for something, anything, to stop me from shivering, and the best solution I found was our family’s archaic laptop. I laid it down on top of all the blankets, and its warmth helped me pull through. So, in a way, I have technology to thank for my health.
At least, until Kevin Costner comes after me with an electric turkey carver.