A Northwest Airlines flight overshot its destination in Minneapolis by 150 miles because the pilots were busy on their laptops. The good news, though, is that the plane the pilot was flying on Microsoft Flight Simulator arrived on time while the co-pilot successfully fought off a horde of goblins and leveled up in World of Warcraft.
Usually, not going to Minneapolis is a good thing, but when you have plane full of 144 people and no one paying attention, it could cause some alarm. Now while the TSA is checking our jackets for knives and our shoes for explosives, they can add checking the pilots for ADHD to the list.
But what are pilots doing with laptops anyway? Computers are sort of the antitheses of planes; why physically go someplace when we’re electronically connected all the time? And computers are ever-present now. We’re either seated at a desk at a computer, in a car with a smart phone, or on our couch or in our commercial airline cockpit with a laptop. It’s like we’re addicted to this information and connectivity — odds are you’re looking at a computer screen right now. But have computers made our lives better?
Many would say yes. Now, it is well-known that the main goal of humanity is to become omnipotent, immortal beings of energy with godlike powers to shape the universe. And through computers, we’re now about halfway there. With constant access to Google, we’re all nearly omnipotent. Our online avatars exist as pure energy and could live forever unless someone deletes them. And we’re all able to mold the universe by making stuff up on blogs and changing entries on Wikipedia. In levels of godhood, that’s got to at least put us on par with one of the lesser Greek gods like Nikeus, god of footwear. Seems pretty good.
Then again, it’s worth looking at how life used to be. Now, as early as a thousand years ago, people didn’t have laptops. Back even further, in the hunting and gathering days — the 60s — there were no computers of any kind. At all. The primary method of social networking was drawing pictures on cave walls. So, for instance, if one of the cave dwellers was hunting buffalo, instead of using his cell phone to update his Facebook status to “kilin buf-lo,” he’d go to the cave wall and draw a picture on it of a buffalo next to himself holding a katana or a ball and chain — you know, whatever it was they used to hunt buffalo.
As you can see, this was a very tedious way to keep people informed of what you’re doing, because painting takes time and you aren’t always near a cave wall, as you could be out building a fire or getting a coffee from Starbucks. Often, one’s CaveWall status went without updates for days and was thus quite out of date. Plus, people were limited to hunting things that were easy to draw.
Now, that all seems rather tedious and hard to manage. In fact, it almost makes directly talking to each other sound easier in comparison — which is usually the first sign of a bad app. But I ask you this: with all your computers and internet and fancy touch screens, how many buffalo have those things helped you to kill?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
With all our technology, we’ve lost touch with what is truly important: killing and eating things. That takes effort from our physical bodies, and right now we look at the physical body as nothing but a burden to be shed when we finally become beings of energy. It needs maintenance in the form of food, bathroom breaks, and occasionally exercise — things that make us miss trending topics on Twitter. But are we missing something essential by focusing on the internet, not taking in the real world, and killing the things that run around in it? Perhaps people were much happier and more balanced in the olden days, because I’ve never heard of an archaeologist discovering an ancient bottle of Prozac. When they got depressed, they just went out and stabbed a wooly mammoth in the face and then showed the kill off to everyone. Something like that was worth like 200 Facebook friends in terms of impressing people.
We all assumed that when Al Gore gave us the internet, it was a blessing, but maybe it was a curse. Perhaps instead of continuing down this path until we’re each a tub of goo clicking a mouse, we should try something else. My suggestion: Let’s dismantle all of civilized society. You know, for like a year or so. Go back to primitive customs like hunting for food, traveling by horse, and using landline phones. Let’s really connect with the world and leave our computers to go out among nature and punch a few rabbits in the face to show them who is in charge. We could even …
Oh, crap! When was I supposed to land this plane?!