Commentary by Terry Anker
The rise of the machines has been a theme of science fiction writers since the beginning of the genre. We invest in our mechanical devices, hoping that they will someday come to serve our every need, all the while failing to notice our own growing dependency. With comfort comes complacency. And with complacency comes our subjection to the very devices we create to serve us.
Yet with each new generation of innovation, we humans have found sufficient ways to stay on top of the food chain. We have mastered pony cars just as we had mastered ponies centuries before. Our obsession with dominating them – all with the intention of capturing their practical use – ultimately leads to a relationship of a more symbiotic nature. We protect and care for them even as they protect and care for us.
Now, technology moves with ever-increasing velocity. Our capacity to learn and develop dominion over it is strained. With generations of smartphones replacing the old before we have figured out a modicum of their features, we are continually left to feel as if the technology has finally outpaced our ability – that we are the inferior. We revert to previous known methods to gain footing. But what if we’ve disposed of the landline? What if we must depend on the unknown technology?
There was a time, not that long ago, that automobiles were mechanical devices. If one failed to start, some human would tinker a bit with hand tools and experience to restore its life. Today, a wire is attached to the car’s brain to ask it what might be wrong. But what if its conscience is disrupted? What if failure or impact has rendered it with a car-cussion so that it forgets its mission to serve us? Well, we could walk. And would we have a choice?