Friday, February 12, 2010

Tech-NO-logically Speaking

Owning and driving an automobile, up until the sixties, was a relatively visual experience: What you saw was what you got. Any serious breakdowns could be chalked up to mere mechanical failure, and problems could generally be traced using eyesight, good hearing capabilities and common sense. This was attached to that, and that was attached to something else, and if you replaced, moved or lubricated the troublesome what's-it with a simple tool or two, operations quickly became normal.

Things were pretty much cut-and-dried for auto/UFO encounters then, too. In case after case, a motorist would suddenly approach a strange object hovering over a road or highway, and almost simultaneously the car engine would quit with complete failure of electrical systems. Once the UFO finished doing whatever it was doing and ascended into the sky toward destinations unknown, the motor vehicle operator usually discovered that all systems had returned to normal, and away he and his passengers would drive, shaken over the UFO experience (the part committed to conscious memory, that is, depending upon the circumstances) and puzzled about the automobile's dysfunction during the encounter.

Oh, to return to the days of functional simplicity. But the future is now -- and we might have outsmarted ourselves.

So, we've now not thousands, but millions of automobile recalls, and the culprits seem the best-engineered among the world of high-tech autos. The dilemma? Accelerators and/or floor mats dressed to kill, air bags that won't behave, brakes that have a "software problem" and undependable steering abilities. It's as if the movie, "Christine" has come true, infecting cars internationally with murderous little demons -- except, in this case it's high-tech demons, engineered by people relying upon computers, not other people, for perfection. The computer never lies, you know. No, it's worse than that, when computers replicate humans' best intentions and the finest details of engineering blueprints, multiplying simple errors into colossal industrial headaches. Or is that technological headaches?

As if auto recalls aren't bad enough, considerable publicity has been generated about the damage a nuclear missile explosion high over Earth can inflict upon our digital world. Basically, every computer, every digital device, every every every everything relying upon the simplicity of a computer chip or the complexity of the newest computerized innovation would be toast. If my not-so-techie mind has this right, we wouldn't be taking "fried" equipment down the street to some overpriced shop for repair because there's nothing to repair. Think small, think large -- with the high-tech world destroyed in a high atmospheric flash, those affected would return instantly to -- according to those who know about this sort of thing -- hardships rivaling the 18th Century, or something not much better. No computerized vehicles, digital TV or personal communication devices to stand in the way of a tough return to nature. No water filtration plants, no functioning electric power grids, no -- well, you get the idea.

It would be interesting to know just how many vehicles encountering UFOs since the seventies and eighties, when computerization became common in the auto industry, ended up with fried components, because higher technology in human terms also means more vulnerability to shocks, collisions and even weather -- and when components fail, the standard-issue screwdriver reposing in the glove compartment won't be useful. If something equivalent to a microwave or ultrasonic blast from a nearby UFO meets the latest automobile technology under the hood, I'm betting that the opportunities for electronic disaster increase substantially. We won't even speculate on unexplained airline catastrophes.

May I suggest ever so helpfully to the auto industry: Please, save yourselves a lot of future trouble. Bring back roll-down auto windows and abolish power door locks. Scrap as much essence-of -computer as you can in at least some vehicles, with a return to some modicum of simplicity. Give the consumer the power once again to self-fix a few things as necessary, rather than obviously hiding the basics behind mysterious protective coverings which exemplify cautionary doom and high repair bills. How long can anybody be self-impressed with a totally computerized car whose advanced functions appear to be controlled by Hal from the movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey?" Who wants to die in a flaming car wreck, one's demise tainted with the further indignity of a tombstone epitaph which reads, "Left us too soon because of an unfortunate software glitch?"

Whatever incredible technology -- if that's a valid word -- lies behind the UFO enigma, can there be any doubt now that it certainly isn't ours? Please, Professor Marvelous, spare me the tales spun by less than honorables, misguideds and the rest of the bunch who claim our computer technology came from direct and intimate contact with UFO technology.