My wife and I are constantly asking each other the same question, “Does all this electronic stuff we’ve collected make our life easier?” To put this article into some perspective, I must first confess that when I was a child, computers were larger than my current house. In high school I had a slide rule, in undergrad school a programmable calculator and a typewriter (OMG!). There was no internet, and I had to go to the library to do research for my school projects.
I was in graduate school when the first desktop computers became accessible to the general public. The first cell phone was a car phone, permanently attached to the car; then there was the bag phone, the size of a back pack. I finally joined the smart phone age a few years ago along with everyone else. Now there’s smart phones, smart watches, Alexa, Siri, tablets, streaming TV, virtual reality games…the list goes on and on. I am a scientist with a Ph.D. in pharmacology, and I’ve always been able to keep up with technology fairly well. Having said that, I still ponder the question, does all this electronic stuff make my life easier?
Let’s begin with the internet. I love the fact that I no longer have to think. I spent five years getting a Ph.D., a waste of time because now all I have to do is ask Alexa. What medicine should I take for G.I. problems? For a headache? Then I think, “Why the hell am I talking to a machine, and why is it named Alexa?” This gives me G.I. problems and a headache.
Alexa and the internet have all the answers, with the exception of information about hippopotamuses…or is it hippopotami? Don’t ask Alexa. I’ve had several discussions with Miss AI on this subject of the hippopotamus, and she confesses that she doesn’t know much about it. Alexa will also play me music, tell me jokes (but not hippo jokes), dim my lights, control my TV, safeguard my home…but she won’t feed the cat or do the damned dishes. And, I keep reading articles (yes, I still read) about how she listens to you, and records you, even when she’s turned off. This makes me uncomfortable, especially at night when we’re in bed. My wife tells me I snore loudly.
The availability of internet and its speed depends on your location. My wife and I have lived in the boonies on a lake for several years, where the fastest internet speed we could get was 1-2 mbps; I kid you not. We could barely run one laptop at a time. When streaming TV first came along, I was mesmerized by that little spinning circle, as the shows spent more time buffering than playing. Between the commercials and the buffering, there was hardly any show at all. But, watching that little blue circle spin round and round was relaxing, kind of like meditating.
Now, there’s Hulu, where I pay $4.00 extra per month for no commercials, then see the disclaimer at the beginning of each show that ‘due to streaming rights we will show a commercial at the beginning and end of the show.’ Not cool guys, and this electronic stuff is definitely not making my life any easier. “Due to human rights, I’m going to cancel my subscription.”
There’s my smart phone. My youngest daughter set me up with an iPhone. I must admit, it is handy to text, although with my large hands I am very slow at it. When texting with my daughters, I am always at least three or four subjects behind, as they send ten texts to my one.
It’s handy to have a small device that fits in your pocket on which you can make phone calls, video chat, take great photos, read the latest news, keep up with email and social media, use the internet as a source of information, talk to an AI (hello Siri), play video games, and watch TV and movies. First of all, if I did all these things every day, I’d never have time to bathe, and even Siri wouldn’t want to be around me.
Worse, I spend most of my time updating the iOS version and all the various Apps. It’s amazing to me that they have to update at least once every twenty minutes. With all the updating, I barely have time to use the phone. This electronic stuff could make life easier, without all the updates. Do better, guys!
The update guys are also extremely pushy. I don’t have my iPhone set on automatic update, so the phone has to let me know when a new update is available. I always look on the internet first, to see if others have found any major problems with each new version. My conversation with my iPhone goes something like this. First day, iPhone, “You have a new iOS version available. Update now, or later?” Me, “Later”. This goes on for three or four days, at which point my iPhone says, and I am paraphrasing here, “Okay, butthead. Plug your damned phone in overnight, because I am going to install this update whether you like it or not.”
Sure enough, next morning I have the latest update. After several updates, I have to buy a new phone because Apple no longer supports the one I have. This electronic stuff makes my life more expensive. I asked Siri about this, and she told me to ask Alexa.
God help me, I recently discovered virtual reality. I bought an Oculus Quest. I had no idea what to expect, and when I first entered the virtual world I was blown away. My mind couldn’t quite process how real it appeared. Here I was, sitting in my office chair in front of my desk at home, and I was transformed into a world of dancing robots, shooting space ships, shooting targets, flying dirigibles, flying rockets, slicing fruit, shooting cowboys, shooting robots…that’s a lot of shooting.
This VR electronic stuff is definitely going to make my life easier, because I now have a place to go to hide and play when my wife wants me to do something, like take out the garbage or clean out the garage. I was happy, until I realized that when I go into my virtual world, my wife is invisible to me, but I’m not invisible to her. I just look like a lunatic sitting there in my chair waving my arms around.
There’s a whole booklet full of warnings that comes with the Oculus Quest, but nowhere does it say “Warning. When you enter the virtual world, while you can’t see your wife, and your weapons are virtual, she can see you, and that frying pan/baseball bat/gun she is wielding is probably real.” So, any shooting she does will not be virtual reality, but the real thing. This particular electronic stuff just might get a fella killed.