People Who Don’t Need People
People Who Don’t Need People
May 27, 2011
Have you noticed that humans are more overrated than usual? That’s because technology is starting to acquire good manners, and it makes humans look worse by comparison. In some cases, your possessions are already more polite than your friends.
For example, when I get near my automobile, and my key is in my pocket, it unlocks the door and adjusts my seat position just right. My automobile always gives me its full attention. It remembers me. It accommodates me. In a word, it is polite. By my rough estimate, my automobile is nicer than 75% of all human beings.
My phone is always in my pocket and automatically synced to the car. When someone calls, the car automatically turns down the radio and doesn’t interrupt the call. Try telling the humans in the backseat that they shouldn’t speak to each other while you’re trying to talk on the phone. Good luck with that. Obviously it’s rude for me to take a call when I have passengers, but only humans think less of me for that sort of thing. My automobile doesn’t judge me. Advantage: automobile.
The other day I was on the road and needed to call some local stores to see if they had a particular item. I completed the task without taking my hands off the wheel. I just talked to the car, which talked to my phone, which talked to the 411 computer at the phone company, which connected me to the store, and I asked my question. It was like frickin’ magic.
Sometimes, during long drives, even if I know the route, I turn on the navigation unit just to hear its upbeat lady voice. That’s not a joke. I actually do that. My wife isn’t a fan of this practice. Sometimes Shelly gets into disagreements with the navigation lady about which route is fastest. In those situations, I try to stay out of it and let the navigation lady act as my attorney. I say, “You two work it out.”
The navigation unit also feeds turn directions to a heads-up display on the windshield that is visible only from the driver’s perspective. It’s one more way that the automobile treats me as if I’m the only special one in the car. This secret navigational knowledge allows me to seem smarter and more confident than I am. That’s what friends are for. Obviously this trick can only dupe my passengers if I turn off the voice prompts and, in effect, waive my right to an attorney.
The engine has a wonderful growl to it. It literally gives me the same sort of positive feedback that I get whenever I pet my cat and she repays me by purring. I’m sure the manufacturer of the automobile tweaks the acoustics to generate that sort of feedback loop. The result of this clever engineering is that the engine seems to express gratitude when I caress the gas pedal. It’s like a huge, friendly cat.
Joking aside, I literally experience an emotional connection to my automobile because of the features I mentioned. Someday all of our technology will learn to emotionally manipulate us. Your smartphone is already doing it. Your desktop computer has been doing it for years. As your possessions learn to fill your emotional void, your need for the comfort of other humans will continue to decrease. Eventually we’ll be a society of sociopaths. I’m already halfway there.
That prediction is entirely serious, by the way. I do believe we will transfer our emotional connections from humans to technology, with or without actual robots. It might take a generation or two, but it’s coming. And it probably isn’t as bad as it sounds.