“I hate computers” is something you still hear a lot these days, which is surprising because computers are everywhere and you’d think we’d be more comfortable with them by now.
“I hate doors” would make about as much sense. Yes, they sometimes don’t operate as we expect them to — we should have pulled not pushed, surprise surprise it slides, or oh — forget about it it’s a revolving door and they just don’t agree with me. But ever since our ancestors first decided to block the hole in their cave we’ve accepted doors as a necessary evil and we don’t generally complain about them very often.
Not so computers. We complain about them all the time. I know I do. And whatever it is about them that makes us complain, that thing has spread like an unspeakable rash to every device that contains or is controlled by computers. So we complain about all those too. There is something inherently complainworthy about computation, it seems.
And all that complaining becomes very time-consuming, because I can’t think of anything now that doesn’t have a computer in it.
“Damned television” we still say, regularly. But whereas we used to say it because the damned picture was rolling, or the sound was weird, or we couldn’t get the damned antenna in the right position for the football, now it’s because the television needs a firmware update. Or we need to attend to some arcane security issue because an apparently essential function of the television, an unavoidable precursor to watching the damned football, is that it successfully connects to the damned Wi-Fi.
“What the hell,” we say. “I’ll watch it on the radio instead, it’s better that way anyway. Alexa, play sports radio. Alexa. ALEXA. PLAY SPORTS RADIO.”
“I’m having trouble connecting to the internet. Please try again later.”
And that’s’ not the end of it. Everyone knows there’s a thousand or more computers in your car. You don’t accelerate, brake, steer or anything these days do you? Between you and that once simple avenue of pleasure — driving — there’s always a thousand or more computers. Computers that will control your braking, limit your speed, reduce your acceleration, and insist — insist, mind you — that blowing air on the windshield requires that the air conditioning also be turned on.
Don’t talk to me about refrigerators. The computer in your brand new fridge can do anything but keep your food at the right temperature it seems. And when you call for a warranty repair because your milk is going off too quickly guess what? Turns out it’s all your fault for not plugging your fridge into a surge suppressor . Sorry, it says here not covered. You damaged the computer which, according to the technician’s computer, will now need replacing at a cost that might suggest you bought a fridge-assisted computer rather than the other way round.
But even the fact that they make almost everything worse doesn’t explain the amount and the intensity of our hatred for computers. I think it’s because, like nutritionists, presidents, and — if you’re very unlucky — dentists, they inherently claim to be smarter than they are. And time and again, we believe them. We trust them. We put them in a position to let us down.
And when it turns out they overpromised, we hate them for it. Especially if, as a result, we can’t watch the football.