Humans on a fast track to becoming vegetables?
From the start, I would like to put this in context. I am an old man and technology has always befuddled me – and always will. Additionally I have an electro-mechanical phobia which more often than not means I can rarely progress further than buttons or switches that indicate “on” and “off”.
That is why I have never driven a vehicle and never had the least inclination to do so. As far as I am concerned, technical manuals for domestic goods might as well be written in Chinese because I can never progress beyond the first paragraph.
When during my working days a screen and keyboard were plonked on my desk at the office and I mastered using the keyboard (thanks to my typewriting endeavours) and started producing word files instead of handwritten texts to be typed by a secretary, office colleagues actually took pictures of this very rare and progressive achievement.
I have been replacing gas cylinders for our domestic kitchen for the last 47 years. Last week I had to change one and fitted up the connection which – supposedly – I should have done blindfolded and with my eyes closed. A full 30 minutes later I was still fiddling around with it because the cooker simply would not function. This half hour was laced with truck loads of unsavoury language and laying the blame on the world in general, including cursed gas cylinders, faulty cookers, damned connections and whatever.
Then it hit me. I suddenly realised that instead of flicking the connection switch to “on”, I was flicking it to “off” every time and hence the problem. Signs of the start of dementia? Perhaps not but more a manifestation of my lifelong electro-mechanical malaise in which everything in that line becomes a red blur.
Since the inception of mobile ‘phones I have only had two performing the basic necessities of ringing/receiving, texting/receiving – full stop. I have never been interested in any other function. I write via my computer, check my internet for news, I have a facebook page, I can “save” pictures and I send and receive e-mails – full stop. Don’t befuddle me with spread sheets, Java scripts, Google Chrome, apps, MP4s, tablets and what have you.
However, there is still hope for duffers like myself because the vista of a new world has unfurled itself in the form of instant technology.
There are now gadgets like mobile phones to take a picture of a loaf of bread to remind me I have to buy one on the way back home lest I forget. There are now cars that drive themselves – you don’t actually have to do anything but programme them for the journey. The world of robots to replace human beings is just around the corner – already largely manifest in manufacturing operations.
What lies ahead? This is a scenario which I have programmed for a household.
Wakey, wakey time at 06.30 because it is a Tuesday working day. The automatic alarm buzzes softly and my little bedside screen appears. It shows the day, the date and the time. Then in rapid sequence it shows me a picture of my wife (just in case I have forgotten her face) and reminds me I have two children (pictures). No birthdays or anniversaries to show today. This is followed by a précis of the main national news, international news, financial news, football and sports results and the day’s weather. Then a data debunk of my day’s programme, appointments, meetings and evening activities including a working dinner appointment and missed television programmes which will be recorded, topped off by the anticipated time when I will retire to sleep.
Meanwhile, my domestic robot has prepared my coffee and breakfast for the family (cereals, warm milk etc) and my blood pressure tablets. My bath is being prepared, my towels warmed and my clothes for the day have been laid out and my shoes polished.
The robot scrubs my back in the bath and then activates the signal for my general-purpose robot to take my car out of the garage and have it waiting in the driveway. It ensures my car has enough electric energy for the day’s needs, the air freshener is working and the day’s intended journeys properly programmed. If any fault is detected it will immediately inform me with a simultaneous message to my auto-technician.
Now my domestic robot turns its attention to the rest of the family’s needs, their clothes for the day, my wife’s intended cooking programme which it will cook for her, reminds her of her hair-setting appointment followed by her visit to the nail technician for nail varnishing as well as the programme to activate the day’s laundry and house cleaning which it will also perform. Her car will be placed in the driveway and the children escorted to the corner of our road to await the school bus.
And the day goes on, all prepared, all nicely programmed. If for some reason there is a power cut, our robots have a substantial back-up battery to ensure uninterrupted functioning for several hours and they will also start other back up resources for the electric cooker, central heating etc.
Naturally, all this requires round-the-clock employment for legions of planners, programmers, engineers, technicians and what have you – but what about the rest of humanity?
Well, we can all blissfully oscillate without actually having to do anything. The power of thought will be consolidated in the hands of a few hyped up boffins who will dictate everything to the rest of the world whilst the rest of us will be a vast vegetable market where all we have to do is absorb the manure, grow as per programme and eventually fade away in submissive surrender.
There will be no need to think for ourselves because thinking will be done for us.
Literacy and mathematical basics will no longer be necessary. Automatic translation packs will replace learning foreign languages and texting will replace human vocal communication (which it already has). Emotional traits will automatically decrease (many already have), human spare parts will be largely available either in a natural form or manufactured (already happening) and life prolonged.
But what kind of a life? Is this the future of mankind? Hopefully not, but alarmingly probable and to an extent already possible.