Gang the place we get our groceries from–our vittle-gitter–ran out of the 1% milk we normally get for heart-health reasons, so we’ve been rocking that 2% life and I feel like I’m gonna go to jail if I get caught enjoying Corn Pops this much. Mine is the life of a king! A…Dairy King.
#13: What piece/s of technology would
you have the hardest time living without?
Well, I’m assuming we aren’t talking about “living” in the context of “physical survival”, in which case I guess the answer would be probably antibiotics or sanitation theory altogether, or just like…agriculture??? Consult Ryan North’s How To Invent Everything and decide for yourself, I’m not the boss of you1.
In that context, I feel like the easy answer is “me phone2” because it brings together almost everything about modern technological life (which is one of the biggest arguments for internet access as a human right3), but that’s boring and misses the point, so we can take that as read and get down to the stuff that I could still function but would be much, much bitchier without, and in that category (and for this post) there can be only one answer: ebook technology and infrastructure.
I was born in 1989, and there are a lot of things I can remember living without that sound insane now, including but not limited to:
- DVDs (to say nothing of their bastard stepchildren; I still have my medals from the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD wars; my medals…and my scars. And also like a bunch of external HD-DVD drives if anyone wants to buy one. Or all of them. Please I can’t keep watching You, Me, and Dupree like this, Matt Dillon was never supposed to be this high-definition)
- Wireless charging
- Streaming anything4
- The TSA having the right to see you naked
- Constant and instantaneous public celebrity self-destruction5
- Cinematic universes
- American Nazis who didn’t advertise being American Nazis (although admittedly that one seems to be cyclical)
- Virtual assistants that can actually understand what you’re saying
- More than three Star Wars movies
- Online schools like the one I graduated from
- Cameras with physical film you had to get developed at the druggist to see how your pictures came out (also the film came in these cool little canisters you could use to store things that you wanted to smell funny)
- The U.S. waging forever-wars against no clear target in the Middle-East (again, cyclical)
- Cellphones that did anything besides call people and play a mean game of Snake, and
All of that seems pretty bonkers, and to an extent you can consider my generation’s position to be a unique one in that we were the last to be born into a non-digital world but the first to grow up in a digital one, but listen, like, I’ve never known a TV you couldn’t control with a remote, and our grandboys will never know a thermostat you couldn’t control from your phone; sunrise, sunset, to everything there is a season, livin’ la vida loca, etc.
But you need to hear me when I say that it is absolutely impossible to overstate how dramatically the nature and breadth of reading has changed in the past twenty, even just the last ten years.
When I was a kid, you’d find a book you liked in most of the same ways you can find them now: a recommendation from a friend, maybe an article, or just stumbling across it at the thrifty or the grocery store (or, one glorious week a year, the Scholastic Book Fair). You’d end up reading (and likely rereading) some random (and I say this with love) garbage7 because you had no way of knowing there was anything else, and that was just how it went.
Today, I can hear good buzz about The Only Good Indians, buy it literally thirty seconds later on the same device where I first heard about it, devour and love it because it’s amazing, then search “authors like Stephen Graham Jones” or “Native American speculative fiction” and spend the next year reading nothing but anthologies that’ll just introduce me to more authors in a huge variety of genres. Or I can hit up the TVTropes page for Occult Detective Stories and go on a binge about weirdos solving crimes with magic/magic crimes going back to the 1910s, then back forward8 in time with Urban Fantasy Police Procedurals. (Listen there are just as many unicorn racehorses and sasquatch deli owners and gargoyle mobsters here in the real world as there are cops I’d trust with magic, so fuckin’, ACABracadabra, leamme alone.) It’s a VERY strange double-edged sword that can get you exposed to a wildly diverse array of marginalized and underrepresented indie authors but ALSO down a weirdly specific rabbit hole to the exclusion of all else, and all of this goes triple for comics.
It…honestly should not be within my power to finish a book and instantly buy the next one; the “this costs money” part of my brain doesn’t go ping when I hit the $8.99 button, and that’s such a problem I had to change a huge part of my life because it was impoverishing me. I have no idea whether that’s just a part of my monkey-brain, or whether it’s because I didn’t grow up with that context and mental mechanism (and, whether people born before debit cards had the same problem with those), and I wish these upcoming generations luck9.
What about you all, my tchotchkes? What contraption would rock your human butt real bad if it vamnished? Is it the Chia Pet? Why is it the Chia Pet? When did a Chia Pet first reveal to you that Mitt Romney’s first name is Willard?
(Those are jokes, please tell me what your weird random grocery-store favorite books were and whether anybody else read Footprints of Thunder or whether I sound like an old man talking about how when he was a boy the movie house had to show Dr. Zhivago for six months)
- Those evaluations I send you are just for fun, but seriously work on your posture. ↩︎
- Fun fact, when cellular phone technology was first introduced to Germany, they decided that the localized slang term they’d try to plant in the public consciousness would be…the handy. You are correct: this is hilarious, and it’s also spread to become a catch-all term for tablets and portable technology in general ↩︎
- Maybe not in a Facebook-and-memes sense (although the Arab Spring is a pretty good counterpoint to that idea), but listen if a kid in an impoverished land with no infrastructure can use a YouTube tutorial to build a water-filtration system, or save the life of someone having a heart attack, or study for a degree, there is no reason to deny them access to that resource and I would even argue that such a denial would constitute a violation of their agency and right to the best, happiest life they are able to achieve. Fuckin’ fight me ↩︎
- You had to just watch whatever was on when it was on, like you were in JAIL; we just started watching The Angry Beavers at the end of our nights and I had NO IDEA that shit got five seasons! There was no way FOR me to know that until fucking Wikipedia, you just had to hope you could catch it while it was on and that it wasn’t one you’d seen before! AND IT WAS ALWAYS ONE YOU’D SEEN BEFORE! ↩︎
- There was a time when a celebrity had to WORK to get people to give up on them, but all things told I think it’s probably better today; I’d rather know that someone is a garbage human and begrudgingly acknowledge that they also do good work than support them in ignorance. I also think bringing them down to our level (and the vulnerability that entails) helps us see them as humans and not as untouchable demigods, which can help us understand that we’re capable of the same kinds of things they are, if not necessarily on the same scale. ↩︎
- And its evil counterpart, Quinoaluigi ↩︎
- And SOMETIMES, they take TWENTY FRIGGIN’ YEARS to make the movie they NEED to make before the book YOU read can get its movie, and the odds get longer and longer and eventually you give up hope, but then sometimes, just sometimes miracles happen! Big chompy awesome bloodsoaked miracles! King Shark bless us every one! ↩︎
- Marty! We need to go back…to the forward! ↩︎
- I mean, with a lot of things. Th–this is probably pretty low on the list, honestly, but it’s there is the point ↩︎