Checkmate

February 25, 2005

Whenever I write something suggesting that a new piece of technology–such as a built-in computer monitor for t-shirts–is useless I get accused by someone, of being anti-technology. I’m not against technology. I’m not one of those Neo-Luddites who goes around smashing computers with a hammer (although if you’re interested in the Neo-Luddite movement, be sure to visit their web site, www.stopusingcomputers.com).

I use a computer, watch television, ride in cars, and even occasionally ride in elevators. I draw the line at escalators. There are a lot of complicated reasons for my unwillingness to take escalators including the fact that I need the exercise, if it’s downhill I can get where I’m going faster using regular stairs, and I’m very bad at tying my shoelaces. Loose shoelaces and escalators are a deadly combination. But I digress. I’m not even really opposed to completely useless applications of technology, such as those little talking toys that, if left alone in the other room, will talk to themselves until you want to smash them with a hammer, and, if put within ten feet of another toy, will develop enough intelligence to come after you with a hammer. I’m not even against the most useless application of technology ever developed, the air freshener that cycles through different scents that supposedly tell a story. The story goes something like this: ‘Walking to the beach I passed through an apple orchard in blossom that just happened to be next to a pine forest. Then I got to the beach, smelled the salty air, and heard the soft sound of the waves washing up a school of dead squid that began to putrefy in the sun.’ Most people hit the "stop" button before it gets to the putrefying part.

But I digress. What bothers me is people who lose sight of the human element when they start talking about how technology will solve all our problems. Gary Kasparov being beaten at chess by a computer was not an earth-shattering event. It was like running a car and a person at each other at high speed to see which one would suffer more damage. Kasparov being beaten by a computer at chess just meant we were one step close to HAL 9000 deep-sixing some astronauts on a red-eye to Jupiter. Kasparov beating Karpov in 1985 wasn’t earth-shattering either, but at least it was two human beings battling it out. In fact Kasparov wasn’t the best player, but he psychologically wore Karpov down, proving that in chess, like poker, it doesn’t matter how good you are but how big a jerk you can be.

But I digress. Technology is a wonderful thing and, I think, will solve a lot of problems. For instance we’re already well on the way to having a paperless society, which is where all information is available on computers so you can print it. Not all information is available on computers yet, but soon information you never knew you needed (and don’t, really), such as what color yogurt the Soviets passed to Boris Spassky to tell him Bobby Fischer was unquestionably the bigger jerk will be available to young boys who are looking for new reasons to get beaten up on the playground. Saying technology will solve all our problems ignores the fact that people sing the songs, people write the books, and people synthesize the smells. In the end it’s better to be with a person, even if they are a jerk, because it makes it so much more fun when you finally beat them at chess and scream, "IN YOUR FACE! WHOO HOO!"

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


A man had just finished reading his book "Man Of The House" while making his commute home from work. By the time he reached home, he stormed into the house and walked directly up to his wife. Pointing his finger in her face, he said "From now on I want you to know that I am the man of the house and my word is law!

You are to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I’m finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you’re going to draw my bath so I can relax. And when I’m finished with my bath, guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?"

"The Funeral Director is my guess," said his wife.

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