June 2018

dinosaur clipartAnother Grumpy Old Man post … maybe I should change the title of this blog to Senior Moments LOL.  But you gotta work with what you got, so full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes 🙂  I’m a dinosaur now, so that’s the topic of the moment.

Obviously retirement is a major watershed point for everyone with regard to becoming a dinosaur, but I’ve been thinking about other ways I’ve seen that process take place over the past 15 or 20 years.  We live in a world of such rapid change that you have to run just to keep up with things.  When I was working — in a fairly IT-intensive area — I had to keep up-to-date on all the latest hoorahs, whatever they were and whether I thought them improvements or not.  Often the changes were not improvements, they were done for other reasons than a motivation to improve a product or service.  They were done in order to push something “new” into the marketplace and make more money, period end of story.  But if you’re on the bandwagon through career involvement, then you bite the bullet.  Gotta do it, it’s that simple.  Your hand is forced — more on that later.

Now that I’m retired nothing pressures me to keep up to speed on the latest “improvements.”  That circumstance allows me to find where my needle points natively on the gauge of this forced modernity we now live in.  And you know what?  Functionality is everything to me, innovation doesn’t turn my head at all.  I’m as practical as the day is long.  I don’t care if something’s new as long as it works properly and gets the job done I want to do.  Dinosaur talk, that is, you’re probably thinking.  Quite so, but let’s pick it apart a bit and see what’s under the hood — or under the scales, however you choose to conceptualize it. I may not be as stupid as I look 🙂

Due to my age I’ve been through lots of changes youngsters will never experience to the same degree of magnitude.  TV was a new kid on the block was I was a young boy.  That makes me a dinosaur by dint of sheer chronology.  I was around for the appearance on the scene of the personal computer.  Thinking about pounding away on one of those early Apple machines with the fluorescent green text on the screen makes me feel twice as old as I really am.  I still remember DOS commands (OMG STFU AYS???).  We’ve come a long way, baby, and thank God that flourescent green text is gone.  It takes no great powers of insight to see that going from an early Apple PC to a modern laptop is a huge improvement.  So yes, there’s been progress, and yes, I’ve had the benefit of it just as much as the next guy.  I use one of those modern laptops and am bloody glad I do, it’s one of the most important tools I have.  But product cycles and marketplace hype have spiraled out of all proportion, to the point now that they become self-referential and have very little to do with actual improvements like those us oldies experienced with the advent of the personal computer or the appearance of the Internet — yes, Bridget, I was around when the Internet itself first hit the scene, too.  Dinosaur talk again, I’m quite aware.  No need to rub it in.

In the arena of recorded music, I’ve seen things change from vinyl LPs to cassette tapes to CDs to Spotify (or Pirate Bay, if you hang out with the wrong crowd LOL).  Cars?  Same thing.  The first car I had was a 1967 Toyota that could be taken apart and put back together again with a regular tool box.  I did a lot of my own mechanic work — changed brakes, adjusted carburetors, that sort of thing.  Today you have four times the number of sensors that you have cylinders, so you’re screwed if you want to do DIY.  Gotta take it to the garage (and that means $$$) so they can plug it into the diagnostic array and see what’s up.  Most likely the problem will be electronic, not mechanical.

What comes foremost to mind for me as I look back over the course of developments is that the so-called progress of technology is entirely coercive.  If you listen to the industry hype you hear that technology is all about enhancing human life and making everything easier for us.  There are two problems with that line of thought: (1) the changes are never a matter of choice by the consumer, they are always industry-driven and imposed, even if users think “improvement” may not be necessary, and (2) things never quite work as they are represented to consumers, who find themselves dragged kicking and screaming along the path of technological innovation whether they will or no.  I’m continually appalled at the performance most technology delivers in actual use compared to the promises made in the hype.  The apps on my phone are not solid as the Rock of Gibraltar — some of them crash, some things don’t work as they say they will, yadda yadda yadda.  Their functionality is at times so counterintuitive it leads one to suspect the use of hallucinogens in the workplaces of the IT industry producing them.  All too often “upgrades” are gratuitous.  I don’t find my life improved, I just find it disrupted.  The learning curve imposed on me to deal with “improvements” makes rise in me a resentment energetic enough to send a rocket to the moon.  Being the dinosaur I am, I’d be perfectly happy to use Windows 7 until I kick the bucket.  It does what I need it to do, I know where everything is — in short, I need no improvements.  But oh no, the Microsoft show must go on, so out comes Windows 10, which is as close to an instrument of Satan as one may come.

I’m dinosaur material in the behavioral arena, as well, of course — no great surprise there.  I spend a lot of time around younger people here in the Philippines where I live, so I know their patterns better than those of Americans the same age, but I suspect that were I in Dubuque, Iowa rather than in Iloilo I would find the same patterns.  The similarity results from the Procrustean process of forcing human consciousness into particular modes and habits through our modern fixation on technology, which is now a global phenomenon.  Let’s be crystal clear on one thing: you adapt to the technology, the technology does not adapt to you.  We’ve heard the debate about the dangers of becoming so lost in our apps that we don’t know how to relate to each other, blah blah blah.  Even more disturbing to me is the fact that an industry driven solely by the need to make a profit defines more and more how modern civilization conducts itself perceptually and cognitively.  I find it disturbing to observe how the definition of normality has shifted in a way that eliminates any consideration of the collateral damage these changes wreak upon us through the invasion of technology into so many aspects of life.  If you redefine reality to eliminate the possibility of objection being raised — a tried and true ideological slight of hand — then spending all day with your face in your phone becomes the norm and there’s no problem at all.  Ask a millenial, including those on the clock working a job.  Problem? Is there a problem here?  What’s the problem with texting my friends for three hours out of the eight I am in the workplace?  What’s the matter with you? Why are you being so negative?  Jeez, lighten up, dude, you’re taking things waaaay too seriously.

The amount of time people who aren’t in dinosaur range like myself spend on their phones really does boggle the mind.  If you ask them what else they spend their time doing, you usually get blank stares.  They don’t read, of course — perish the thought!  Hardly anybody does that anymore except dinosaurs LOL.  They don’t draw or paint or write or go for walks or garden.  They know nothing about the natural environment they inhabit.  They don’t know how to cook, they think pizza is haute cuisine and they have no aspirations to do anything but make lots of money through some as yet undefined activity that takes as little of their time and attention as possible.  They do show considerable initiative when it comes to guzzling beer, of course (some things never change LMAO).  The range of their activity in the course of any given day is in all truth quite limited.  They ain’t bovvered.

This is the flower of Western Civilization?  Just shoot me, I beg you, and be quick about it.

Obviously, the world has moved on and I’ve moved with it, but obviously we haven’t stayed in step.  I’ve fallen a bit behind, it appears — probably because I was late out of the gate in the first place.  When you grow up out in the boondocks and spend your time working on the land, it ruins you for becoming a hard-core techno junkie of the modern urban type in your golden years.  You find your attention wandering to things like clouds and flowers and sunlight on leaves and such silly things as Nature puts in your path.  Thus you discover in the year of our Lord 2018 that you are a confirmed dinosaur.  Game over, Bridget.  Technopups: 1.  Dinosaurs: 0.  You’re on the slag heap, babes, and there you will stay until The End of Days.  You’ve become museum fodder even before you bite the Big One.  Pity, but there it is … and a fresh coat of paint won’t cover it up.

But not to worry.  I’m reconciled to my fate and find it quite good fun, really.  Since being shifted into the category of non-essential personnel through retirement, I’ve taken great delight in the freedom I now have to give the finger to the rapid pace of change in the modern world.  I get to set my own pace now, thank you very much.  It no longer matters whether I keep up-to-date.  I’m superannuated as a fundamental characteristic of my existence at this point, so it hardly matters if I have the latest version of Android on my phone or know the ins and outs of cloud storage.  And if I choose to cultivate dinosaurian types of activity — such as writing pieces of this sort — nobody will mind because there’s no performance evaluation pending and I won’t get a raise even if I get it spot on.  I can blithely carry on as the dinosaur I’ve become secure in the knowledge that nobody will even blink an eye, because nobody gives a rip.

The world will do what it wants, no matter how insightful or trenchant any analysis of what doesn’t work or its potential dangers or disadvantages for the future.  Rather than cavil at the modern world like an irascible old coot, I find myself becoming dismissive of what gets in the way of carrying on as a proper dinosaur.  I intend to make the most of my fossilization, and I’ll have no interference from young whippersnappers telling me the error of my ways, thank you very much.  I’ll take what I find useful from the miasma that is modern life with its invasive technology and use it to my own purposes.  In my youth I was a high plains critical theorist and I’ve gone around a few blocks our young pups haven’t even been past once.  In fact, such things aren’t even on their GPS.  I needn’t tell myself pretty stories any longer to justify what I find myself doing under duress, since the duress evaporated when I became non-essential personnel.  I’m outside the marketplace now, it’s dead to me and I’m dead to it.  I have no vested interest in any particular trajectory of development.  This detachment means I can be brutally frank about the fundamental motivation of all this hullabaloo going on around me — it’s about making money, duuuh, not about improving the quality of life.  Since I’ve now become a non-economic entity, it’s perfectly appropriate that I step aside and allow myself to fossilize in peace.  I’ll be dead before the milennials create the Brave New World they’re supposedly bringing in tow with them, so the deck is stacked entirely in my favor.  Brave New Worlds have never been my cup of tea, anyway, especially if they are designed by people who know far more about Angry Birds than they do about the salon culture of 18th century France.

So to all you other dinosaurs out there: let’s give ourselves a pat on the back and a hip hip hooray for cultural obsolescence and its delights.  Let’s march onward to the Final Extinction Event secure in the knowledge that we lay down a layer in the stratigraphy of human existence that will one day show in the geological record just like all the others.  There, you see? — who says dinosaurs don’t serve a purpose? 🙂