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The Digital Terror!

Howell Hurst Uncategorized

[First Installment of an Essay]

I am confident that I am not the only person who finds himself utterly bewildered straining to fathom the unintelligible world of computers and allegedly intelligent cell phones. Since the beginning of digital time I have owned a computer, and can unequivocally state that, as the years have passed, my ability to isolate what I concretely require from the Digital Terrors to rationally conduct my life has been structured upon defining the following: the tiny handful of tangible communication needs I have, while methodically ignoring the thousand other promised technical benefits supposedly submerged in the digital labyrinth. Actually, learning how to avoid them has been my only personal digital salvation.

Geek technicians are functionally illiterate. In my case, since I am an American, they simply have not mastered the English language. Oh, they know several words; their select vocabularies provide them the appearance of literacy; but as for really understanding English and its sentence structure and how to paint with it a picture in words to convey clear meaning – well that is obviously totally beyond their capabilities. I do not outright convict them of idiocy. But that they are not like the rest of us, I assure you is not a harsh judgment. They are firmly a breed apart.

Permit me to use this present piece of writing as an example. I started writing it almost half an hour ago. In that period, three quarters of the time [twenty minutes] has been spent fending off the intrusion of the Word program as I struggle to bring simple sentences that are clear in my mind legibly onto a printed digital page. Repeatedly, as I have been engaged in writing a single word, one of many new windows has opened on my computer screen. Many have contained no significance whatsoever to what I am doing. Often, they have dealt with other PC issues entirely divorced from writing.

The intrusion has invariably disappeared my own text from the screen and replaced it with another screen so rapidly I could not even read it and absorb its meaning before it then just as miraculously deleted itself. I then discovered that if I did a Control/Alt/Delete it caused my Word document to as equally miraculously reappear so I could complete my sentence. Actually, at least three digital intruders presented themselves to me during this last sentence alone. I now must reread what I just wrote because I am not even certain these sentences make any sense anymore. Having now read it, I guess it does in a nerdy fashion convey meaning. It is definitely, however, beginning to abandon literate English. But, let’s move on.

One of the several other intrusions has been the automatic highlighting of my text, immediately preceding its inevitable spontaneous deletion of my text, which I have been able, based on years of experience, to defensively perceive and prevent by placing my cursor in a blank spot on the page and clicking, making it disappear before the highlighting guts my message. Another has been the persistent appearance of a screen I have finally deciphered as having something to do with a service my computer calls The Task Master, or similar wording. Yet another is a fancily-framed box with a half dozen icons affording me the options of selecting other alternate choices that I have definitely not requested.

By this time I reluctantly admit the first elements of paranoia have begun to take seed in my mind. Never fear; I intend to struggle on, to bravely proceed. It does not do to allow digital Geeks to intimidate us; we must press on. At this juncture, my computer has just exploded a large screen reminding me that I have been working on this piece for a full hour. As I studied to determine how to delete it, it has done so by itself. Might this be divine intervention? I leave that to scholars of religion.

This piece has now decidedly taken on a life all its own. I had originally projected only two paragraphs for what I wanted to say to this point. Coping with the above has so far, however, unless I miscount, expanded that to six paragraphs. Again, The Task Master has now just reappeared as has a digital box indicating my type font, its size, and various color options. I am able to remove them with the tools of an escape key and another mysterious spontaneous deletion. As I presently attempt to save this sentence, everything I am writing miraculously begins to appear in all caps, which I have been required to delete and retype.

I am guessing that many of you may believe I am making all this up. How to impress on you that I am actually striving to express what is actually happening I am not certain. I guess I must simply plug on. Since it is now late at night and I am growing sleepy, I am deciding to put this writing temporarily [just interrupted with another time check by the computer!] aside and rest for the ordeal tomorrow of proceeding.

It is now next morning. I wish neither to bore you with overabundant examples of digital mayhem nor to direct this piece into the territory of satire. I am not consciously trying for critical humor; that phenomenon is by itself emerging as a direct consequence of the digital interference. The point of my writing this is to seriously criticize the digital fever that has consumed the world. I contend that the alleged efficiency digital Geeks attribute to their uninvited intrusions into our thoughts and endeavors, rather than being true, is actually false; rather than being helpful is disruptive. I profoundly believe the digital mania forced upon the millions of us by a tiny handful of influential and frequently famous Geeks, rather than enhancing the future of our species, has – instead – literally retarded the course of human progress.

I am aware this is blasphemy. I too watch such role models as Mr. Gates of Microsoft on my smart phone’s variously accessible news programs, proclaiming to the world that he is now working with others to save the rest of the planet’s inhabitants after having successfully with his products saved the first group of us of the necessity of thinking. I assert my right as one of the thinkers to say I feel he is too full of himself and his technology. I think he means well. But, as is often in the case of capitalism, I believe he confuses financial success with verifiable human success.

The evidence for my blasphemous contention is the millions of other users of digital hardware and software who do, as do I, also spend inordinate quantities of time away from their real gainful occupations, wrestling up to their intellectual boot tops in the stubbornly incomprehensible intricacies of the digital quagmire. Millions of hours that could be spent in meaningful and fruitful work is consistently wasted battling the puzzling complexities provided us by the digital minds – most of whom are charging us exorbitant fees to help us unravel what they are trying to say.

No human endeavor I know of in the history of mankind has so marketed itself as a solution to so many human problems while actually tying our brains into so many knots as we scuffle and grapple attempting to understand how to use it. And it gets worse day by day as the Geeks insist on complicating their products rather than simplifying them. Their inability to come to grips with the real needs of humans rather than their own inherent needs to prove themselves the geniuses they all seem to think they are is endless. Their egos are unrelentingly yearning for our attention.

I am reminded of Joseph Conrad’s words, attributed in his marvelous novel, Heart of Darkness, to his protagonist Mr. Kurtz’s personal dilemma:

“The horror. The horror.”

Indeed.

[To be continued . . . ]

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