Patrick Rochelle: My rage against the machine

What is it about this part of the semester that makes everyone’s computer crash? How is it that all the printers in Gelman seem to go awry in the spring?

And why is it whenever these things happen, it seems our entire livelihoods – mine included – are halted until these malfunctions are resolved?

A few weeks ago, my computer broke down while I was writing a paper in the library. I panicked. With two papers due in a couple of days, it was the worst possible time to have my computer malfunction.

I took the computer to the Apple store, thrust the laptop at the employee and frantically begged him to fix it.

Standing a few feet from me was a young woman who was bent over the same table, saying “thank you, thank you, thank you,” to the man behind the counter. She was overcome with the same emotions – and she was practically reverential toward the “genius” that had revived her computer – as was I.

As dependent as I am on my computer and iPhone, I wouldn’t call myself particularly tech savvy. Many people, including myself, could not fix a computer to save their lives.

It is as though we have become slaves to our own technology.

It is just as Jaron Lanier writes in his book “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto”. “A new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be…”

In the book, Lanier argues that computers are not our superiors but rather extensions of ourselves – products meant to push us to our fullest potential, to catapult us into the future.

That is why I fear people give too much credence to technology. Our iPhones and laptops may do a lot of fancy tricks but they are ultimately limited to what we program them to do.

In the future, we can expect computers and technology to play even greater roles in our lives. It might sound like a joke today, but maybe in 10 years, robots will become standard items in every home.

Still, no matter how lifelike technology may seem, we can’t forget that it is only as good as its best programmer.

So the next time my computer crashes in Gelman, I will stop, breathe and remember that the machine is not a representation of my own abilities but rather a device with a few kinks that still need to be worked out.

Until then, I’ll remember to back up my hard drive.

Patrick Rochelle, a junior majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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