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But What If We SHOULD Be More Demanding Of Technology?

Date/Time Permalink: 04/05/11 12:05:48 pm
Category: General

I'm a big Louis CK fan, and I like this video as much as anybody else. Here's the YouTube - it's "Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy", his little rant on Conan O'Brian. The thing is, this time I can't get behind ol' Louis on this one. Everything was amazing, and then it all got stupid again. I can't even tell if we're progressing or sliding back any more.

Some of us get impatient and antsy with tech when it's broken and we're stuck with it. No, you should rage every time an electronic gizmo fails, because 80% of the electronic gizmos out there are built by people who don 't care if they fail. Louis CK expresses gratitude that we live in this age of electronic miracles. That's great, but I'm still thinking we should have reached the cell phone era back in the 1500s or so, if only the ignorant and lazy had gotten out of the way sooner. Right now, we should be invited to the pan-galactic rishathra orgy at the decadently-furnished Babylonian space station in the Andromeda galaxy, but, alas, we missed out again this year.

This is a special frustration that only geeks can know. It is the agony of staring at a prompt that accepts only four-character strings, of seeing Internet Explorer render ruler-straight standards-compliant CSS like it spilled a box of Tinker-Toys, of watching a Javascript exploit munch through your Facebook friends like wildfire because nobody thought to restrict executable commands in input forms.

Once a way is found for something to work, there is no excuse for it not to work anymore.

For instance, we invented search engines - when? The first tool was Archie, developed in 1990! NINETEEN NINETY, a full twenty years ago! Now how is it that fifteen year-olds still come up asking basic, elementary, questions that Google could get, even with the "I'm feeling lucky" button? I'll tell you how - we're sliding backwards.

Operating system security - a solved problem on the day Unix was invented. Unix is as old as I am. That means that I have never been alive so much as a day in a world where computer file permissions have not been invented. For that matter, we've known how to keep computers stable, robust, virtually crash-proof.

So why did I go to the doctor with my kid today, the clerk is there typing my form into her desktop machine, it freezes up, and she just accepts this as a totally normal event? Oh well, somebody comes over and reboots it. To me, this is the same thing as if we were answering insurance questions and then a giant woolly mammoth suddenly crashed through the wall and we all had to take stone spears to kill it before we could get on with our day. It would be like if they brought out leeches to bleed off the patient's bad humours. Like if we were driving home and a terrified caveman ran out in the street and started throwing rocks at the car because he thought it was a demon.

Once a way is found for something to work, there is no excuse for it not to work anymore.

Isn't it shocking when you still find a video player that doesn't work online? Running Firefox on Ubuntu, I'm able to view video flawlessly on dozens of sites... and then you come to the weirdo using some off-brand method of embedding and streaming a video that doesn't work. Or most websites manage to at least be legible on most major systems and browsers, and yet you still run across these people who ask you to view it in IE 6.0. Because upgrades are apparently still a shaky science in their corner of the universe or something.

I understand if it's not a solved problem. Louis brings up mobile phone reception and airport delays - well, these things still happen because we haven't figured out foolproof solutions yet. But we have every right to demand that they get solved as fast as possible.

If you're old enough to remember VCRs (they played video on tape), you remember the "blinking 12:00" problem? People didn't know how to set their VCR clock, so they'd just leave it flashing the endless 12:00. You saw this at every other house you'd visit. I don't know, when I bought VCRs, they came with manuals. Mine were in English and everything; I had no problem. Why do other people have that problem? Because we're sliding backwards.

I think people are just giving up. I think the next big wave in society will be Luddites. People will just charge down the street smashing out streetlights and shredding tires, taking rocks to anything with microchips embedded. Cities will gradually go back to the 1940s or so, and technology use will just be in these little pocket suburb towns that are walled off from the rest of the world. The few of us who can deal with technology, we'll be sequestered and quarantined there, where we can't infect the world with our science.

It feels that way, doesn't it? Some people don't want progress. They can't adapt fast enough, and they don't want anybody demanding that they do.

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