5 Crazily Primitive Ways We Use Advanced Technology
We have some pretty amazing technology at our disposal now. Essentially all the world's information is available in our pockets, at any time. And if we want to see that world naked, the same device can help. And if we want to discuss our findings with someone on the other side of the planet -- "Lolwut. Your weiner is bent?" -- that's also pretty straightforward. Any one of these feats is an everyday occurrence to us, and yet the same stunts would have gotten you burned as a witch as little as 20 years ago.
1992. The Whitewater scandal, I think. That's Hillary Clinton up front.
And yet despite all the marvels our technology can perform, for some reason we still use it to do some crazily primitive things. Whether it's because of limits the technology itself has or our own stupid caveman brains struggling to keep up with the modern world, not a day goes by without one of us massively underutilizing something incredibly powerful.
This woman is seconds away from banging these together to start a fire.
Here, then, are five examples of ways we revert back to the poo-flinging monkeys we're just barely not.
Obviously I could fill an entire article with ridiculous smartphone apps. There are apps that make fart noises, or turn your $600 smartphone into a $10 mouse, or simulate popping bubble wrap. Also, because the world is too dumb to deserve nice things, apps that turn your phone into a hand warmer.
But instead I'm going to focus not on an app, but a feature that almost all of us have on our phones now, the self-facing camera. Self-facing cameras that we (I at least) basically never use for the video chatting they were designed for, instead more commonly using them for checking if there's something in our teeth.
"Is that turkey? I haven't had turkey in months."
I mean, don't get me wrong, this is actually a pretty useful trick for a smartphone to have, because, you know, I've always got one with me, unlike a mirror. (I'm comfortable with how good I look.) (Also, Gorgons are rare in my area.) And yes, every now and then, like most people, I get an entire onion ring stuck in my headgear and need to fish it out. But the fact that I do this with the help of a supercomputer is both hilarious and insane.
Everything We Do With Voice Mail
Voice mail is categorically the worst. Leaving a voice mail is a hideously awkward experience, as the sender struggles to reconfigure the conversation they were planning on having into a single coherent message, all while self-consciously aware of how stupid their own voice must sound. It's the conversational equivalent of puberty.
"Hi, uhm, it's ... Mark and ..." -explodes into one thousand zits and elbows-
Meanwhile, receiving a voice mail is essentially a war crime. Depending on which voice mail system you have, this can take up to a minute of button pressing and pauses and timestamps before you even hear the message someone left, at which point you're blessed with the opportunity to hear a co-worker painfully discover the limits of their oratorical skills. All for a message that essentially means: "Derp. Call me when you get a chance."
Which is why every civilized human being, upon calling someone and getting their voice mail, hangs the fuck up and sends them an email. Emails or text messages are faster to access, are faster to read, and provide their own written record, which minimizes the need for everyone involved to scribble down addresses and phone numbers.
And what everyone is wearing.
And although voice mail might not be the most advanced technology on this list, it is still something that would have made our ... great ... grandparents' ... pets envious, that we're either bludgeoning outright or ignoring completely.
Pop quiz, Modern Citizen! What's the very first thing you try when you want to fix something that possesses a power switch? If you answered anything other than "Press the power switch," please report to the nearest ice floe being swept out to sea, because you no longer have a place in this world.
Take some DVDs with you.
But why is this the single piece of computing advice that everyone knows? Why is it so universally effective? Why do our various things need to shut off all the goddamned time? Why can't they recover themselves?
Yes, I understand that our devices are tremendously complicated and exist themselves in tremendously complicated environments. Which means that, yes, there's an exponential number of combinations of states they can be in and stimuli they can experience, not all of which are predictable or recoverable. I get that no matter what we do, our devices will eventually barf and freeze up.
But why isn't there a separate device whose only job is watching the first device and rebooting it when it freezes? Honestly, this is an idiot's job. That's exactly the kind of thing technology is good at doing for us.
This man now spends 90 percent less time exploring his own body, thanks to technology.
Also! What about the multiple times a week our machines ask us to reboot them? Software updates regularly pull this stunt, even when they're not very important pieces of software. Or to put it another way, as I explained to my computer the other night, "WHO THE FUCK IS ADOBE AIR AND WHY ARE ITS UPDATES STANDING BETWEEN ME AND THE REST OF MY DAY?"
"Who are you? Who invited you to this party? What are you doing in the fridge?"
The explanation for this nonsense -- that software updates need to replace core files that cannot be touched while the computer is running -- is itself only a half-response. Why don't they just, you know, change the part of the operating system that can't update itself without being turned off? Other operating systems, like Linux and other Unix derivatives, require far less reboots.
I don't know. I get annoyed just thinking about it. We've all just accepted reboots as part of our lives, without questioning why, all the time steadily moving toward a world where we treat technology as an almost mystical thing, not understanding how it works, only knowing the rituals it demands of us.
"No. Still getting nothing."
"Try unplugging it for 10 seconds, then plugging it back in again."
Basically every site on the Internet now will ask you to log in to it. Sometimes this can be ignored if you want to remain anonymous, like if you're on kind of a shady website. But almost all of the good sites require it, and when you do ultimately create accounts, every single one of them needs a password. And every single one of them is also very insistent that we pick unique passwords each time. Which means to use the Internet as directed, we're required to remember dozens of unique, mixed-case, symbol-containing gibber-words, a feat that is more or less impossible for our caveman brains to manage.
"Hi, tech support? No, I can't even see the password prompt. It's just making a low, kind of whirring sound. Reboot it? Ooooo...K."
And so, to simplify our lives, we just use the same password everywhere, which it turns out is only marginally more effective than locking a door with a really good knot.
No shit. It turns out that when we use a password at multiple sites and one of those sites happens to, say, give that password to some hackers who asked nicely for it, then every single one of your accounts will be compromised.
"Hi, yes, is your Refri93ra70r running?" -several minutes of snickering-
Security experts are adamant that reusing passwords is one of the dumbest things we do, that it wipes out all the hard work they put into building secure systems. And thus we end up in a situation where we have incredibly advanced security technology rendered useless because its chimp-like users find it too hard to use.
Emailing Files to Ourselves
Basically every computer you use now is connected to the Internet, and if it isn't, you might not be using a computer.
And given that every device we have is in essence and reality connected to every other device we use, it should be no problem moving files from one to the other, right? After all, we get our computers to talk to other computers for video chats, or gaming, or teledildonics all the time. It's so common, it's almost boring. But for some reason, if you want to move a file from one supercomputer to a different supercomputer 5 feet away, you're going to need three different pieces of software, a special cable, and a fucking warlock to get it all to work.
Which is why every single one of us has emailed a file to ourselves like some goddamned caveman.
"Maybe you should just set up Dropbox?"
Oh, fuck you, caveman. Yes, I've thought of that. And it works great, if Dropbox is already installed on both machines. If not, like if you're on a friend's computer or something, then you're mucking around with installing it, and/or setting up shared folders or public folders or some other damned thing. I grant that it's entirely possible, but it will require a few minutes of thinking and poking around to set up. Also importantly, it involves copying files to a third party, which might not be kosher with whatever corporate IT policies you or your friend have to deal with.
And it's the exact same logistical nightmare for setting up an FTP site or mapping a network drive or any of the other "proper" solutions to the problem. All possible, but they all take a non-trivial amount of forethought and effort to get to work. Emailing files to ourselves, however ass-backward it is, is still the fastest, most universally workable solution available. Which is how we find ourselves not striding confidently into the future, instead tripping and pratfalling into the open manhole of the present.