Machines make our lives easier. That is not an evil, per se, but more of an opening statement of fact. I am alive thansk to modern medical technology, and I am certain I am not alone. I like progress. I like technology. This is not an anti-technology rant.

It is a wake up call.

When was the last time you were angry? Not just peeved, but truly, murderously angry? If you are never angry, then you are not human. All of us get angry. It may have been on the road, in a supermarket line, at a drive through or trying to get a governmental official or someone on the phone to accomplish something for you. I know this covers ground, but stay with me here. What is the common theme?

In each of these situations, you were angry because of the performance of another person, or lack thereof. The person on the road is not performing correctly. They are perfomring incorrectly. In the same way, a person who fumbles while making change at the gas station has performed inadequately. These people become idiots..imbeciles, to you. Ever been at a drive through for more than fifteen minutes? Some may have never waited so long.

Or, maybe you might've been a victim of a computer. The last time the internet went down, or the cable went out might've been the lighting of a fuse. A computer virus can cause a major number of headaches. The machine is performing incorrectly, and all you want to do is fix it, somehow. In any way that works.

The evil of machines is that they condition their users to treat each other the same way they would treat a machine. The girl at Starbucks messed up your coffee. Have you seen people scream at a teenage girl because she missed an ingredient? Yes, at some point, you did pay for the coffee, and it is reasonable to ask someone to fix a mistake, but screaming? Really? Is a bad cup of overpriced coffee the worst thing that happened to you today? If so, congrats! But in reality, the anger is based on the fact that the work was underperformed by a fallable human being. Doesn't she have the right to make a mistake?

Somehow, these people have become less than human, worthy of ridicule and derision. They are malfunctioning units in need of correction, by whatever means necessary.

Machines are not inherently evil, but they stop us from thinking. Stop us from thinking about the emotions of others. Stop us from thinking about the repercussions of our actions. Empathy is the basis of morality, and when we stop thinking, we stop being moral.

Once I noticed this, I saw it everywhere. It was uncanny. Look and listen to someone the next time their car breaks down, or the internet is down, then look and listen to someone who is road raging or who is screaming at some teenager about incorrect change, or bad coffee.

And think.

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Comment by Robert Tully on June 5, 2010 at 1:33pm
I was afraid of what I would find here when I read your title, but I was surprised to find that I know exactly what you are talking about. This wonderful information age, for me, has most likely directly impacted my patience which in turn has affected my "emotional tolerance for frustration" but as John D also says this has impacted me on both sides of the coin. I know I am able to get angry quickly and for very little reason, but I also get over things quickly too. My impatience for screw ups is the same impatience I have for being angry about something that is over. Maybe we are becoming more like machines, but maybe thats not entirely for the worst. interesting idea!
Comment by Bradley Keene on June 4, 2010 at 6:04pm
I can understand this point of view, but I haven't really seen it in my day-to-day life. Sure, I hate slow drivers, but I live in South Carolina. Slow driving is practically a way of life. Other than that, I rarely if ever get angry at anyone. However, I'm the most computer and tech-centric in my group of sorts.

Hell, my mom who doesn't know a CPU from a toaster oven recreates the wrath of hell when the slightest thing goes wrong. A cat meows and she goes into demonic voice mode.

I'd say your claim is probably valid, but highly debatable.
Comment by Glenn Sogge on June 4, 2010 at 9:37am
Whenever I hear or read about how something is "evil", I suspect that some kind of religious rant is on the way. So far, I haven't been disappointed very many times.

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