Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Computerization of Me

Lately I’ve started to feel like a computer. It’s kind of like the way that beagle owners’ start looking like their beagles. I’ve spent a lot of time with my computer over the years. I’ve stared into the screen until I’m bleary eyed and worn the keyboard down with millions of two-finger strokes. But thankfully, I’m not actually looking like a computer. More alarmingly, I’m behaving like a computer.

For example, I’ve noticed I can only deal with decisions that have been reduced to if-then-else statements. If boss out, then leave early, else read email. If email from boss, then forward to underling, else delete unread. If underling has shotgun, then duck behind desk, else inquire about family.

I’ve traded concentration for multi-tasking. I can only move from one task to another, pausing long enough to work for a few milliseconds before switching to the next one. I often get so many tasks on my stack that my buffers overflow. I slow down to a crawl, run out of memory, and the last thing I remember is a blue light coming down over my eyes. Someone eventually walks by and gives me a boot but not before putting finger prints on my glasses. I reboot slowly. While I’m waiting I go get coffee.

I communicate with coworkers in short bursts of three and four letter acronyms interspersed with redundant header packets and encrypted so chances of understanding by pretty much anybody is minimized. We repeat familiar patterns, such as sitting around rectangular tables and transferring our internal state to each other. Since computers have no self-awareness, we never think to ask why-- especially if someone brings bagels.

When my battery is low, I go home. I sometimes receive wireless transmissions while driving on the information super highway. Luckily my phone is knees-free so I can continue driving while jotting down takeout orders. After recharging, I sit in front of the master screen while it programs me to buy Big Macs and diet pills. As I fall asleep, my mind churns with random shards of information while the defrag process runs.

I’m pretty sure my boss has noticed my computer-like tendencies. But I’m a ‘286 in a Pentium world and the Intel Inside t-shirt isn’t fooling him anymore. I see an upgrade coming—it’s time to save off all those MP3’s before they wipe my hard drive. Maybe I should have bought a beagle instead of that Apple II afterall.