Ill Machina

I’ve been using the turnpike almost daily for the past week and a half and it has provided me the gateway through which I can bitch and moan on our societal trajectory; the coordinates of which are currently revving it up at the intersection of Holy! and Moses!

We are a science-fiction ending waiting to happen, even if we don’t pay it our daily mind. We’re too caught up in the myriad of lusty trysts involving push button conveniences that play to our nubile sensibilities, sexing up our solitary . . . guilt free! We feed at the technological trough that all too often preaches single over mingle. We get to be Howard Hughes on a budget when we’re sufficiently peopled out, tucked safely away inside our individual panic rooms. And while I can relate to the idea of not wanting to consort with all the mouth breathers that try and steal my airspace, the truth of the matter is that a bill is gonna come due. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that scot still ain’t free.

There’s always a bill.

Speeding through the toll booth that used to house a name who toted a shopping list of cosmic aches and dreams, now you get Peek a Boo sensors with 20/15 vision who do not give a fig about small talk. A sign advises you to keep it moving while those prying eyes check out the junk in your trunk.

We’re losing our souls by piecemeal with all these bloodless transactions and it’s happening with our eyes wide shut. Because that tattle tale of a toll booth has got plenty of company.

A shopping run where you self-checkout your shit seems peach, but it’s a hassle when you think about it. You still wait in line (sometimes longer). And now you have to scan your shit and hope there are no problems and then you have to call someone over when there invariably is. You’re really not saving any time and your ‘bond’ with a mercantile machine is all about bar codes.

If that’s cool with you, then you can always take an e-commerce look away pass with your purchase, and you’ll probably get it in no time flat. And you’ll probably get exactly what you asked for. And you’ll probably never have to worry about an email informing you that your order couldn’t be filled at this time. You best hope that probably comes through, because if you had to speak with a live person? Probably not.

Grabbing a cup of Joe and a bagel at most local beaneries is a hands on endeavor. The same can’t be said of the fast casuals that dominate the landscape; where you’re handed an empty cup and pointed to a toaster whilst getting overcharged for the privilege.

The spread has bled to the point where we don’t even flinch at how much technology has changed us. Our cars can drive us, our apps can turn the lights on, a fat frisbee cleans our floors, a disembodied voice answers all of our questions. And that’s not even to mention how we tote our phones around the way a COPD patient clutches to an oxygen tank. And all that change has taken place in the time it takes to pay off a mortgage.

We’re spurious worshippers of this fountain of progress; our collective toes dipping just below the surface so’s we can ignore the deep, blue mystery of our future selves. Will we keep swimming until we reach that point of no return? Or will we stick close enough to the shoreline so as to avoid drowning?

Who knows?

Maybe we end up merging with the ghosts in the machine, the way humanity did in Isaac Asimov’s The Last Question. In the story, humans team up with technology to reach the stars and beyond, planting flags in every corner of the universe. There’s a hopeful ending for humankind as we find our divinity through this furious expansion, even if we’re not around to hear the answer.

I hope we’re that fortunate.


44 thoughts on “Ill Machina

  1. Fine, I’ll get off your lawn! 😂

    But seriously, I can only really push back on the self-checkout one. I worked in grocery stores throughout high school and college, so I trust myself more than the 16 year old cashier who has to call someone over to scan my alcohol anyway. I’ve also noticed many stores that now have self-checkout also now have more employees walking the store and answering questions in the aisles, which I think is a far more beneficial service to customers.

    Technology has so many ways to feed our social interactions if we steer it the right way. That’s part of what I love about blogging. I doubt I’ll randomly find someone in person with the same passion for football as me, but if someone is reading my blog and engaging, chances are they have a similar, though likely healthier, obsession with the game as me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • TB,

      I ain’t damning technology by any means. Nope, I’m damning how it’s used and abused and let’s face it, if humanity can figure a way to Dr. Jekyll something? They’ll figure it out.

      The retail situation is interesting because most big box stores slash payroll this time of year, so you have longer lines and more shrinkage. I really don’t care whether I use a self checkout machine or live person but I’m dubious about the former.

      I love technology! (When it works for me), because yeah, I’ve met writers, fallen in love and learned how to swear in several languages as a result. But not everybody is like you and me. Some peeps use it to gain the dark side. Yikes.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Enjoyed this, Pilgrim. We are all headed to a place that will make it a chore to lift a finger. I think I will use your post as a metaphor of the canary in the mine and keep watching the little sucker to make sure it’s still breathing. My last book had AI decide to eliminate humans as a way to stop global warming. Maybe not a bad idea. Well donecon the post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love how the mind works. Give a chance to think and wonder, it can go in many directions – the dark, the new, and the challenging … the philosophical and the whimsical … the analytical and the humorous. Whether driving, walking, running, cycling, or whatever – it’s fun to let it do its thing. That’s what you’ve done here …. and grocery stores are loaded with metaphors about life. You can think and tap into your abyss of skilled writing and unique metaphors, Yahtzee! Well done, sir.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. B,

    I have to say, as one who has always chosen to be out and about with people, I am rather amazed at how much I have fallen into that press-a-button, get-what-you-want, ka-ching! doesn’t show because it’s on a credit card and you can keep pressing for a long time before you are cut off. Thankfully, I’ve not gone to that extreme.

    I don’t know if I blame COVID for my new ability to go it alone for so many hours, days, hell, weeks! with nary an interaction with a person in person or if it would have happened naturally over time. Impossible to tell. That said, you make a great point. And yes, there is always a bill.

    We are losing our souls to the indifference of the automatic scan.

    I choose to go to the human cashier. Or rather, I would choose it, if they didn’t make it so impossible. It’s a double-edged sword. They need the automatic tellers because they don’t have the staff because…. where the hell is everyone? Doesn’t anyone work anymore? And they don’t need as much staff because we can scan ourselves. And curse when there is alcohol and the only person who can unstuck you is three cashes away helping the poor old man who cannot find the code for his lettuce.

    I do worry about humanity. Though we have had the discussion many a time on social media and what we get from it. I think we get what we need and or want and can easily flush that which doesn’t work for us.

    And now I have to read this book. Dammit.

    As you so often do, you make me think. Also, you chose the perfect tune.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Q

      It’s everyone and everywhere. We are wired differently these days and it’s got plenty of good and not so good to it. My concern, as I have tried to emphasize here, is that humanity always finds a way to screw shit up. Let’s hope this time will be different?

      As a less than social butterfly, Covid didn’t affect me the way it did many others. I think the people who were adversely affected are still feeling it.

      There is something to be said for soul. It’s very much needed.

      The self-checkout is a lesson in adaptation alright. I usually make it through in record time, but again, I’m used to that technology and it doesn’t bother me. I still don’t think it’s great for us in the long run.

      Yes! It’s become so convenient to be hidden behind something these days. We’re bubble wrapped to the elements in a way. No bueno.

      It’s a short story and well worth it. I read it eons ago but it stuck.

      You are the best. MUAH!



  5. The tragedy seems, at least in my mind that we’re being feed a diet of “it’s time saving progress” when in fact it’s more about profit to shareholders and boards of directors that gleefully rob us of our sheckels as well as our souls while we become more and more addicted to their insatiable greed. Thanks for one of my favorite musical jams. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow – a lot to chew on here and so much is alarming
    And it is crazy as to
    how “much technology has changed us”
    The wearable technology is something that has been on my mind and then how little privacy we have when we use cloud stuff – or just anything digital
    But the wearable technology might start messing even more with our meridians and organs

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Today I was listening to a podcast where the discussion was about how all of us have pretty much just shrugged our collective shoulders at the massive intrusiveness of our technology. How everything is being programmed for us, shrinking and determining our reality, our view of the world. How every electronic move we make has a viewer, and the future consequences of that are of undetermined magnitude. We just roll with it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did you read about that kid who developed an app to distinguish the language of AI from human beings? He’s a senior at Princeton named Edward Tion and he’s got the goods. Humankind needs minds like his, more and more.

      Liked by 1 person

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