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?
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.