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Bad Things Happen by Ernest Lilley
SFRevu.com Editorial  ISBN/ITEM#: EL0608
Date: August 2006 / Show Official Info /

Hopefully you remember George's lament from the opening credits of the 1960s Hana Barbara cartoon show, The Jetsons, really future version of their previous success, The Flintstones...which was a cartoon version of Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners which was set in the then current 1950s. At the end of the credits, George was trapped on an out of control treadmill trying not to be flung off into space while the family pets watched with (one assumes) amusement. The whole thing reeks of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times...but back to our story.

We’re all pretty familiar with the treadmill as metaphor for our techno-compulsive lives, and the message that we can easily become the machine's servant has not been lost on anyone, least of all the makers of films like Colossus – The Forbin Project, or the whole Terminator series. But what happens when the machines break down?

This is your life. This is your life on tech. This is you life going cold tech-turkey. Any questions?

While I could, and will at some point, go off on the whole tech-civilization collapse thing, at the moment I'm just thinking about the IT part of my life. Ironically, SF readers tend to fall into two camps, early adopters and non-adopters. Guess which side I'm on.

Like lots of us, I want more time out of the day than there really is in it. And I want more out of my brain than it cares to hold. The answers: Sleep less, compute more. But there are painful roadbumps when sleep deprivation and computing collide. For instance, I just spent the last three days in data recovery and software installation after what we assume was an overload of spyware brought my main computer (Hal) to a near standstill. After trying a considerable number of fixes, I pulled the hard drive out of the system, plugged it into another (Hollywood) as a second (well, third) drive, and made sure my backed up data was as current as the original. Then I put it back and wiped the whole thing clean.

After a day of installs and some fun getting data and programs to speak to each other, I'm back on Hal finishing up stuff for the August issue. Maybe I shouldn't have named my computer after a machine that killed off nearly everyone on a spaceship. Should you want to load up your computer with chilling bon mots from our favorite AI, pop over to palantir.net where you can find the gamut. Fortunately, Hal feels much better now...and fortunately I've been burned enough to back up often. Unfortunately, you really need to get burned in order to keep your hands out of fire. We're just not wired to do it on the basis of a good lecture.

In fact, despite the premise of this piece, I’ve had the wheels come off so often that it's no longer the big deal it once was. Ah, I remember the first PDA I left in a pay phone booth. That was a weekend of major stress and heartbreak. Now my PDA has a password, wipes itself clean after 10 failures, and automatically backs up onto my desktop, which automatically backs up onto another device. Still, I try not to lose them. But, I'm only human. Not an infallible machine.

In the non-fatal world of personal information technology, an interesting thing happens when your systems fail. First, of course, you panic. Then you try to fix it. But if you're stuck without it for more than a few days, the tranquility alternative kicks in and you relax. The whole cyberworld of friends, family and Nigerian bankers has to get along without you...and it's kind of nice. Oh, you'll have to get back to it eventually, but for the moment you're in a quiet place. Enjoy it while it lasts.

So back to George on the treadmill. Run baby, run. But when you fall, enjoy the trip. In the fast paced world of tomorrow, it's the only rest you'll get.

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