Whether it’s incessantly chatting on a cell phone or listening to an MP3 player, or chatting on a cell phone that’s also an MP3 player, or taking a picture of your MP3 player with a cell phone that also has an MP3 player, it’s undeniable that modern technological gadgets facilitate our universal drive to pamper ourselves. Without them, we’d be relatively non-functional and pretty irritable.
And someday … they will destroy us all!
But seriously, could our fate resemble the apocalyptical scenario in the film Terminator 2—when computers and machines and small electronic devices rise up and wage war against mankind? Creepy to think about, yes … but could it already be happening … on an iPod scale?
Obviously modern day iPods and their accompanying devices aren’t taking over our sprawling civilizations in a physically destructive sense, but they certainly have infiltrated our everyday lives by making it possible to listen to Barry Manilow’s entire catalog on the go and still have enough available memory for a few Sanford and Son reruns downloaded from iTunes.
Okay, let’s get serious again … Could this be a future Apple press release?
“On February 10, 2031, Apple will unveil their new iPoo—a fully functional, individually priced, completely portable lavatory module. The days of waiting in long, sweaty Port-a-potty lines are officially over. It’s time to drop it where you stop it. Drip it where you grip it. Splash it where you stash it. And that’s definitely not all! Be entertained by the 21,003 audio books and over 500 gigs of music from the 1970s and 80s played directly from the built-in and newly released ihaveallmedia-pod. Watch every television show and film ever made. Make business calls through an onboard iPhone—using the hands-free wireless earpiece feature, of course! Enjoy all-organic iChow fed to you by the robotic iHand from the built-in convection iOven that extracts food from the attached iFridge. And guess what? It does it all while you poo! Hell, you can spend all day on the iPoo! Tell your friends! It’s cool. It’s really in style and trendy and everyone will join in. And don’t worry—we all won’t look like some crazed cult of publicly defecating, well-dressed hobos with freakishly large, teethy smiles on their incredible well-groomed faces and bodies that got that way by using, you guessed it, the iHygeine!”
In other words: I think our obsession with rather expensive convenience gadgets is bordering on ridiculous. And I’m not talking about the long line of appliances that cut workloads and wait time into tiny, manageable fractions (washers, dryers, cars, microwave, food processors, dish washers, ovens, stoves, etc., etc., etc.).
No, I’m talking about the iPods with 20,000 songs. I’m talking about the GPS navigation in cars. I’m talking about TiVo. I’m talking about the yearn for everyone to be a hedonistic god—indulging in media orgies at every opportunity. To listen to any song at any time just because they can. To watch part of a show (on a super 20 billion pixel HD LCD television), pause it for fifteen hours, and then watch the rest. These pricey media modifiers all seem so excessive and, frankly, a waste of money for those of us on a budget.
Alas, you won’t find any gadget hounds parting with such gizmos. People scrape by for rent and food, but have premium cable services and Netflix subscriptions they are unwilling to relinquish. They stress about being in debt, but have no problem forking over three hundred plus dollars for a video iPod.
Why? I guess it’s the evolved (and new and improved!) twenty-first century human nature to demand the latest, most, best, tiniest and, most importantly, the coolest.
Why else would folks walk around with those little Bluetooth wireless earpieces? These people can’t all be secret service agents that need to get important communications and have their hands free to draw their guns and save the President. They’re not all Jack Bauers, are they? No, they’re regular, every day people whose pressing business isn’t pressing enough to warrant an investment in a hands-free communication apparatus.
And, yes, the headsets aren’t that expensive; the Netflix and the iPods aren’t that expensive; but remember these are all accessories to other pricier forms of entertainment technology (cell phones, computers, televisions, DVD players, etc.). And it all adds up to a hefty price in the end. Especially if you want to fully accessorize yourself.
Let’s say I purchase the iPod. But, I have a van and I want to listen to my entire Flock of Seagulls collection. So, I buy an iTrip that makes it possible to blast “I Ran (So Far Away)” over my car’s supreme sound system. I’m going to the beach with my friends and wishing there was a way to bring my jams out on the sand to keep the party going. Now that I think about it, there’s an old compact disc boom box in my closet that works fine, but I couldn’t bring that because it’s not slick enough or the color white or small enough and it also requires four D batteries. You mean it doesn’t charge on its own?! NO! Plus, I’d have to lug around all those huge CDs I want to play because I wouldn’t dream of braving it with only the AM/FM tuner. So, instead, I buy a portable speaker system for my iPod.
And I have a great time. And all is well. Problem is that all this ups my cost of living and I’m not even spending money on replacement technology for constructive purposes. Instead, I’m buying things to make leisure more leisurely. It’s money spent on making media I had before more convenient right now. And often times, it mobilizes things self-indulgently. Do I really need to watch an episode of The Office on the bus to work? Not really, but I do it because it makes me feel like I’m in a science fiction film.
Yet, fighting the compulsion to fall in line and spend excessive amounts on superfluous techno gear seems to be increasingly futile. The new gizmos are entirely too slick and futuristic to turn a totally blind eye. They seduce me. And they’re rapidly being assimilated into everyday society as fast as they appear in stores (online and tangible). My fear is that people are losing touch with reality. I, myself, find that I have trouble functioning without my cell phone or my newly purchased video iPod or my laptop or any sort of electronic device. I wander aimlessly around my apartment in a sort of limbo, unsure of what do next (Should I eat or check my email fifteen times every ten minutes?). After an hour of that, I start to feel numb and I usually sit on my couch in a strange stasis, unable to smile or move.
Just last week, I saw a man on a $5,000 Segway human transporter (an electric scooter for use in pedestrian areas) waiting in line for concert tickets. He couldn’t just stand still in line like the other humans. He had to stand high atop his metallic steed, shimmering in the sunlight. At last, a definitive visual representation of a “tool.” Sorry, but it has to be said.
Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised to see a Bluetooth earpiece in his ear and a pristinely white iPod strapped to his belt.