Friday, November 25, 2011

Steve Jobs and the Others

He ranks among the most ingenious inventors of the century, and nobody can disparage the contributions of Steve Jobs (and others of his discipline). Yes, think of what the personal computer has done for us.

Now, think of what the computer has done to us, for the future reeks of cyber-instability.

Governments can track our every move, and so perhaps can your employer. Computer portability deprives us of sleep and assures longer hours working away from the office. Power grids, nuclear power plants, public water authorities, the military and law enforcement personnel -- all apparently susceptible to computer hacking -- are as dependent upon the chip as a baby on the bottle. Does anybody doubt that malicious hackers will always be with us?

The computer is helping China and other nations achieve a dangerous level of power. The computer has assisted criminals in running the U.S. economy into near-bankruptcy at lightning speed.

Young schoolchildren and college students are ruled by the computer, enslaved by its charms, depriving them of socialization and sometimes any emotional contact with reality. Just look at the mental health statistics and medical professionals' need to drug suicidal computer users with medications which, strangely, further their risk of taking their own lives. I think Big Pharma loves computers. I think Big Anything embraces computers to use them against us in some way.

What to do when the sun finally emits that one gigantic burst of energy -- perhaps followed directly by another -- that heads toward Earth and destroys every satellite in orbit? What happens when a rogue country or power at last gets around to launching a few level E1 or roughly equivalent electromagnetic pulsation devices, deadly to every improperly shielded thing running on chips (instant trash beyond repair)?*** Imagine the panic engulfing young people who lack access to computer technology, unable to solve even simple problems as they lack even the basics of common sense and old-fashioned problem-solving methods. Public services may well be replaced by chaos. Predictions that successful deployment of EMP weapons could hurl modern societies back into the 18th century must not be taken lightly.

Perhaps a tiny preview of the future materialized last March, when an American military plane experienced a GPS-disabling electronic attack from North Korea during air warfare exercises.

Computer technology is not an episode of "Star Trek," where advanced gadgetry routinely saves the universe. All is not guaranteed to end well with reliance on computer technology. While we can thank Mr. Jobs for his brilliance and miss his presence, let's not be so sure that such profound technological and corporate acumen hasn't fundamentally, indeed ultimately weakened and doomed us amongst our own robust feelings of strength and accomplishment. Facebook, Zuckerberg, Google, Jobs, Gates and other corporations and names of worship descend upon us. I'm nobody's expert, but I'm wondering if we'll eventually find neither freedom nor salvation in the chip. And who knows, something better may come along to scrap and eclipse the entire computer industry one day, making it as irrelevant as 8-track tape cartridges (though my remaining token 8-track from Radio Shack still works, I confess). In the future, will honored giants of the computer industry be regarded as god-like wizards -- or as just some guys who invented something that was fun and helpful for a while, but didn't quite work out the way folks expected?

*** After I wrote this, the Fox-TV series, "Terra Nova" happened to feature a story depicting widespread computer chip destruction due to electromagnetic effects caused by a falling meteorite -- and all damages were repaired quickly, just in time for the end of the show. Unfortunately, real-life EM devastation would be far worse and not so easily overcome, depending upon the strength and altitude of the offending precipitant. Speaking of "Terra Nova," this series really needs something. I guess the actors are okay, but the storyline and weekly script-writing suffer tremendously. The Guesswhatkindasauruses and the Imgonnachewoffyourlegasauruses are realistic enough, but the "Sixers" add little but a diversion from things that we already badly require diversion from. Now, if the "Sixers" were something like the mutant psycho humans created secondary to a plague in the old movie, "The Omega Man," they might have something besides expensive weekly kiddie fluff and painfully contrived dialogue to show for their efforts. And how is it that the commander's son has managed to live five years outside the gates, hiding out on his own? Seems as though somewhere along the way he would have been eaten by a Gotchagonnadevouryourassasaurus. Calling Godzilla! Where's Godzilla when you need him? Or Billy Mumy? I'd even settle for the "Lost in Space" robot from the TV series over this mess. Or maybe they just need (sigh...) a vampire, like everybody else.