From Luddite to Tech Wizard

In five short years

Photo courtesy of the author

No one would have foreseen me going into the tech field, least of all me. This was not a straight path.

In high school I signed up for “Keyboarding” because I wanted to learn how to play an instrument. Turns out, it was a touch-typing class. I was like, “Guys, the typewriter is going the way of the dinosaur. No one needs to know how to type!”

Not only was I oblivious to computers becoming a thing, but I was also slow to learn the technology. Especially since I’m not into porn, and cats arrived on the scene much later.

I recall asking my husband what an external hard drive was. He said, “It’s a hard drive…that’s external. What’s not to understand?”

I answered his question with a question: “What’s a hard drive?”

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When I was in ninth grade, I told my father I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. I wasn’t interested in getting entangled in marriage or reproduction or the world at all. I just wanted to be married to the Lord. You know, a typical fourteen-year-old’s fantasy.

“You’d have to be Catholic,” my father said.

Aw, man! There’s always a catch. I’m not any type of Christian, so it wouldn’t even be a relevant stretch for me to become a Catholic nun.

Why can’t there be a generic convent? One that’s not connected with any particular religion. 

“We celebrate all Gods here! Or none of them! You’re welcome even if you’re an atheist who just feels like wearing a nun’s habit and working in a garden or scrubbing floors all day.”

~~~

I learned my way around a computer little by little. Typed a few school papers, started blogging in 2006, took a class on Web design. But I was never the early adopter; I remained at the back of the pack. I think I was the last person in America to get a cell phone that didn’t have physical buttons for each letter of the alphabet.

I just love how they’re called smart phones, but we use them for the dumbest stuff.

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Swipe, swipe. Dr. Google: “What does gonorrhea look like…not because I have it, I’m just curious.” We’re melting our brains watching videos on TikTok, playing mindless games, pretending to text while we’re waiting for our friend to show up.

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All of this is to say, I didn’t plan to go into the tech field. I’ll point to my English degree to back up that statement. Why am I telling you about this? Because you can’t be what you can’t see (said Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund).

Ironically, my only reference for the tech world was Office Space, which I saw in the theater in 1999, long before I knew what a hard drive was. Then I found myself working for a motherboard manufacturer — in an administrative function — without fully comprehending at first what role this particular piece of plastic and metal played inside a computer.

AND THAT’S HOW I BECAME A TECH WIZARD. I’LL TELL YOU MORE ABOUT IT AS SOON AS I CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO TURN OFF CAPS.

Robots may be coming for our jobs…

But here’s why they’ll never become our overlords

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I don’t believe humanity’s future looks like Terminator or The Matrix, where AI takes over and crushes our bones under their feet or farms our fleshy bodies.

Here’s why.

Case Study #1:
Technology is constantly breaking down. Case in point, my microwave is on the fritz. It alerted me to its predicament by lighting up every character on its LED screen, resembling an alien language, and by emitting a high-pitched squeal of desperation. Then, like a secret message from space, text began scrolling across the screen, one word at a time:
WE………….BRING………….GOOD………….THINGS………….TO………….LIFE.
Oh – do you? That’s an awfully optimistic statement coming from a broken appliance. Look at this inanimate object creating its own reality – just like some humans do – despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.

Case Study #2:
Technology doesn’t understand basic speech. When I verbally instructed my phone to “call Dad,” its robotic voice responded, “call God.”
“No,” I corrected, enunciating more clearly. “Call Dad.”
It again responded, “call God.”
“Call Dad!”
“Call God.”
After going back and forth like this several times, I was on the verge of letting loose a slew of expletives. Then I suddenly stopped myself – why reject this intriguing offer?
“Ok,” I said. “Call God!”
“Contact not found,” was the response.
Surprise, surprise.

Another time, when I was preparing to send a text to my husband, I typed out, “I have to…” The phone then suggested that the next logical character in that sequence would be a brown, spiraled doodoo emoji. When have I ever in my life put into print that I needed to engage in that particular activity? I’ve never once selected that distasteful emoji, so why suggest it? Fail!

When I go to type my husband’s name after “I love you,” the phone suggests “biscuit” as the next likely word. It’s true – I do love me a warm, flaky biscuit, but what a random suggestion. Fail!

Case Study #3:
“Smart” technology is a joke. My round robotic vacuum blasts right on by clusters of debris, constantly gets stuck in tight places, straight-up ignores the device that’s supposed to keep it out of a certain area, and often can’t find its own charging base when a job is “completed.” This robot is as much of a half-asser as I am. I didn’t buy an expensive robot to do only as mediocre a job as I would have done. It was programmed for one purpose only – it should take pride in its work! Why is it in such a rush to get back to its base anyway? It’s not like it has a hot date.

Case Study #4 – 1,000:
My SUV lowered all four of its windows and popped the trunk open well after I’d left the vehicle parked in the driveway. The lock screen on my phone doesn’t recognize my face when I wake up in the morning because the bags under my eyes throws it off. The frequent traveler service that should have me sailing through Customs at international airports doesn’t work seamlessly for me because I lack well-defined fingerprints for the fingerprint reader to scan. Automatic doors often fail to recognize my presence and rob me of my dignity as I flail my arms maniacally trying to get them to acknowledge me. The ATM is constantly out of service. Self-driving car fiascos dominate the news. Need I go on?

Yes, you may be coming for my job, robots. But given that all you can suggest is doodoo emojis and flee for your charging base, you evidently won’t be any better at my job than I am. Which is why this risk doesn’t keep me awake at night.