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Davis, California

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Column: The next big thing

Usually, to borrow a phrase from the Black Eyed Peas, I like to pride myself on being relatively “3008;” I know all the 411, I’m listening to the cool jams and I’ve even got a Twitter.

But my problem isn’t staying hip to the jive, which I clearly excel at (check the lingo) — it’s technology. Sure I have a Twitter, and I’ve even heard of LinkedIn, but that doesn’t mean I have any inkling about how to use either.

It’s not for lack of trying, mind you. It just seems like every time I bother to get acquainted with the latest and greatest device, it’s almost immediately eclipsed by “the next big thing.” Even my prized cellphone — for all of its 1.3 megapixels and surprising durability — is now basically regarded as a technological fossil, whereas just two years ago the AT&T associate pitched it to me as the top-of-the-line in Smartphones.

You should know that I’m well aware of the risks inherent in writing this column: that I’ll end up sounding like an out-of-touch 83-year-old or a hipster wingnut on the brink of Amish conversion. Fine with me; when it comes to new forms of social media and gadgetry, that’s often how I spiritually identify. Saying this might seem like a melodramatic inaccuracy, since readers are by now surely familiar with the blog I incessantly promote (cleverblog.tumblr.com, for the newcomers), but take it from me: Tumblr is where my savvy ends.

More and more it feels like the tools with which I’m acquainted, like Facebook and even iTunes (thanks to Spotify), are becoming relics. The battery life of the laptop I purchased two years ago has already withered to a pathetic 44 minutes, and I’m certain the Windows 7 operating system will be obsolete soon enough (if that isn’t the case already). As production gets better, shelf life is getting shorter and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay familiar with all the new industry standards and jargon, especially for a premature curmudgeon like myself.

The term “3G,” for instance, still means nothing to me no matter how many times I hear it, and the extent of my knowledge on 4G consists of the logical assumption that it’s an improvement on 3G. I’m able to recognize Pinterest as the name of The Site Where My Friends Get The Funny Pictures, although I have absolutely no clue as to what its actual purpose is. Frankly, though, I’m okay with not knowing about all of these things in detail as I have found that people who are technologically well-versed are almost more intimidating than the technology itself.

This is why I view the Apple Genius Bar not as the mecca that everyone else seems to see it as, but as the closest on-Earth manifestation of Dante’s 9th circle of Hell. Everyone who works there is so young and quick-spoken and robotic in their knowledge that when you throw in all the icy silver motifs it feels like being trapped inside a futuristic nightmare scripted by Aaron Sorkin.

The Genius representatives are almost intimidatingly knowledgeable. When I think of the immensity of the scale of Apple’s ongoing production, I can only imagine with some horror what the Genius’ orientation manual must look like — or what it’ll look like in five years — and what kind of superhumans it must take to retain that scale of information.

What’s even more frightening, though, is that there are cads of ordinary people who fall for that shit — who get enticed by the unending, materialistic yearning for whatever’s new and trendy in the way of technological advancements. As long as there’s somebody tending, say, the Genius bar or the electronics section of the local Target, there’s always going to be a buyer who’s susceptible to the “newer is better, upgrade now!” spiel. I know this because I’m one of them.

Just because I don’t understand technology 100 (or even 50) percent of the time doesn’t mean that my comfortable existence of status updates and blogging isn’t just as dependent on it. Sacrifices must be made to maintain societal relevance, so I’m going to keep upgrading, downloading, purchasing and even scheduling appointments with the Genius Bar in order to do so. So what if the emperor has no clothes? He has an iPad instead.

Stay tuned as DYLAN GALLAGHER (reachable at dylaaaaan@gmail.com) discovers the printing press.

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