Man is losing out to machines
March 3, 2003
In the battle between man and machines, we humans are losing. No, this is not the script for the next “Terminator” movie, though it may be worthwhile submitting this real-life situation to Hollywood.
Years ago, when it was evident that we would all be reliant on computers, the so-called experts told us our lives would be changed in three ways:
n We will work less, and have more leisure time. Wrong! The average American works approximately one hour more per day than people in the ’60s. We work when we’re home, we work in the car, and worst of all, people work on the golf course. (The USGA recently instituted a 2-stroke penalty for anyone using a cell phone on a golf course. Great idea!)
n We will become a paperless society. Look around your workplace. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Paper on the desk, paper on the floor, paper overflowing in drawers. We’re buried in paper.
Computers encourage people to run reams of reports, most of which aren’t read. Of course, when errors are made, which is frequent, revised reports need to be reprinted, which usually get buried further in one’s in-box. “The deeper the paper gets in the in-box, the less important it becomes,” a great modern-day philosopher recently said. Now that we have those stackable, plastic in-boxes, we can create multilevel paper jams. I currently have five in-boxes, while a co-worker of mine has a company-record seven, all overflowing with piles of paper.
n Life will become simpler. Obviously, this hasn’t happened either. Computers constantly need repairs, upgrades and reprogramming just to keep them working. The most secure job is that of a computer tech, since most of us who try to fix the infernal machines only make things worse.
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I found it ironic that when our tech people (we call them computer nerds, while they refer to themselves as techno-studs), go on vacation, everything works fine. As soon as they return, the usual crashes, lock-ups and other computer errors occur on a regular basis. It makes you wonder if these computer people are part of the conspiracy, or are they really machines in disguise?
The copier’s role in this is to consume countless hours of three or more humans who continually search into the depths of the machine looking for the small corner of paper that is jamming the device and making it inoperable. Once this unknowledgeable group eventually breaks the copier, a repair service must be called, which delays progress another three to four days.
Fax machines program themselves to conveniently run a stripe through the most important information on the document. When trying to send a piece of paper, you often don’t know where it will end up. Time and money is wasted on the follow-up call, “Did you get my fax?” Do you know that screeching the machine makes? That’s the fax laughing at you.
Cell phones don’t work, especially in Tahoe! Wait until you can use a phone with a wire if you have something important to say. I got a call from someone I couldn’t understand who said they were at the “Y,” a whole three miles away. The only advantage that I see in cell phones is that you can intentionally cut someone off that you don’t want to talk to, and they don’t know any different. “Hello! We’re breaking up! I’m losing you!” Click.
How does the movie end? When the machines finally drive every business person insane and take over the world, they eventually destroy themselves. The few surviving humans begin running businesses efficiently with paper, pencils and manila folders. Then, in the rubble, someone finds an old typewriter — and the cycle starts all over again.
Paul Andrew is the real estate account executive for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Offbeat is written by Tribune employees whenever they get around to it.