McAdams On: The Final Frontier

OBLIVIAN: Technology is supposed to make life easier, not take my job. Sarcasm is the sole thing standing between me and a robot doing it. Coders have not yet perfected robotic sarcasm, and it’s a documented fact that as humans age, they grow more sarcastic. And by “documented,” I mean it was written down somewhere by someone. I think.

The advance of technology is sort of like “better living through chemistry,” which brought us bottled drinking water. Don’t get me wrong. I love hot showers, refrigeration and those plug-in timers that turn my lights on and off. Those things make me feel like I’m in a Jetsons episode. That, and the fact that my computer is my best friend, I have video conversations, read news on a screen and run on a treadmill. I do not, however, have an anti-gravity switch, a flying car nor a personal jet pack, and I kind of resent this.

I blame the Consumer Electronics Show, in keeping with my victim’s mentality. I also believe the event to be a massive conspiracy to distract us from the fact that we are not yet zipping about over the city in flying Volkswagen Bugs. I understand this year’s CES extravaganza was rife with smart TVs, tablet computers and displays you can view from the side. Yawn.

I would have gone to Las Vegas to yawn at the show in person had the consumer electronics industry bothered to create teleportation, but no. They give us smart TVs and smartphones. I’m here to tell you that this is not a particularly good omen for dumb people. If any of you other dumb people out there are interested in joining me in forming a lobby to buy off Congress protect our rights, just leave an anonymous, unintelligible comment below. I have seen you there before. I know we are legion.

I considered driving my ground-hugging Hello Kitty Interceptor to the show in Vegas, but my travel budget consists of the loose change in the ashtray. When I just have to get away, I use it to plug parking meters in a part of town where hat stores serve free champagne when you feign interest in buying a hat. But that, too, is getting harder to do, thanks to technology.

Meters are being replaced by some crazy automated valet thing that takes plastic and bills and spits out a receipt for the dash but no change, thank you very much. So you have to spend an entire dollar, first of all, and second, it completely bollixes running out of the store after a couple of flutes with the excuse of plugging the meter. How is this making my life easier, I ask you?

I don’t remember the city asking approval for a new hidden tax in the form of parking extortion. Now, rather than the occasional meter sprint, we now have groups of people surrounding these kiosks like monkeys poking the obelisk in “2001.” I blame the consumer electronics industry for this, too, because if I had a jet pack like I’m supposed to by now, I wouldn’t have to park anywhere, would I. (*rolls eyes*)

Yo. Consumer electronics industry--I really do belong on your market research panel. Smart gear is so tomorrow morning. Is it really that hard to fabricate a multi-location generator so that I can simultaneously work and practice meditation--or as some call it, “sleep?” I would also like to have a handheld morpher so I can transform into a werewolf for a split second when some snarky salesperson asks if I’m going to buy that hat or just guzzle the Mumm’s. I would like to have a pyrokinesis chip implant for similar purposes.

Instead, you give me a new crop of TVs that connect to the Internet, but not completely because that’s how the TV makers intend to compete--by giving me only the stuff they want me to have. News flash: You are treading precariously close to fomenting a Smart TV Neutrality movement, not to mention provoking the wrath of the Dumb Individuals Protection Society. And once DIPS wake up, there’s no telling what they might do besides run for office and work as journalists.