by Mike McHugh
It was a pleasant Monday morning in Key West, a light breeze blowing and just enough clouds to moderate the typical August heat. I’m at the poolside tiki bar with my Bloody Mary, as is my morning ritual whenever I visit the isle. In this setting, it’s easy to forget about whatever might be happening on the mainland, not even LSU’s quarterback situation
I go back to my room and flip on the TV for a little mind candy, which is never hard to find what with the offerings on cable. If TV programs had calories, America would have long collapsed into the ocean under the sheer mass of its populace. Skipping over the financial channel, my eyes take in a solid flash of red. Either CNBC was airing “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” or it wasn’t a happy morning on Wall Street.
I flipped back to see that the market had dropped a thousand points in the first few minutes, at a time when most traders were still stuck in traffic returning from the Hamptons. I did a quick mental calculation. Even after correcting for the effect of the Bloody Mary, it was clear that an asteroid had just fell on my retirement account. Maybe I could find a guitar and set up out in front of one of the shops on Duval Street. Surely the owner would tip me generously to move a couple of blocks.
The market later recovered, the brief crash seemingly caused by a bunch of computers that for some reason decided to sell all at once. It was as if they’d all got together over the weekend and said to each other, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to wipe a few trillion dollars off the books Monday morning? What a joke that would be, ha!” And here we thought that computers don’t have a sense of humor.
This raises an unsettling question. If computers now have a sense of humor, isn’t that an indication of independent thought? That’s why we as a society need to be careful letting computers control more and more things in this world. For instance, Google is working hard on developing a computer-driven car. This is something we don’t need. Imagine your wife is having a baby, and instead of rushing her to the hospital the car decides it’d like to cruise over to New Orleans for a joy ride through the Quarter. Or what if you go Christmas shopping at the mall, and your shiny BMW parks itself somewhere in the next county because it doesn’t want to be seen beside the old Subaru that’s parked next to the only open space in the lot?
Worse yet, your car may develop something of a conscience. It may flatly refuse to take you to Buffalo Wild Wings to cavort with your buddies on the day of the big game, which the car realizes is also your wife’s birthday because it scanned her driver’s license.
Also, I have absolutely no desire to live in a “smart house.” I could see it now, my security system locking me inside until I fix the icemaker problem that the refrigerator has been complaining about. My smart remote switching itself over to HGTV because the den wants itself redecorated. The IQ of my house should be no more than its number of bathrooms.
And that’s only if it doesn’t have indoor plumbing.
© 2015 by Mike McHugh