Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Imaginary TED Talk, OR, Thinking Things Out for “Baby”

Technology is increasingly personal. It once took up an entire room, then it fit on your desk, and now you’re unfashionable if it isn’t in your pocket. Your music, credit card information, address and the phone numbers of everyone you’re vaguely interested in are entrenched in portable devices.

It went from “over there” to “over here” to “under your fingers” to “in your hand” to “in your hand, ear and mouth, and frequently before your eyes.” It will go “inside.” That’s the next level of intimacy, once it becomes simpler to inject you with everything rather than having to deal with all those cumbersome senses individually. A child will never be lost again with a GPS in her brainstem. You’ll think about someone and it will autodial them, or autotext if you don’t feel like hearing them. Telepathy will come in various broadband fads and forms of hourly rates.

There’ll be new options. Yes, it’s a phone, a music player, a source of directions. But wouldn’t you like it to help your sense of direction? It could look up the route, or it could stimulate your brain so that you constantly know the route, altered on the minute by the latest traffic reports. Precognition by satellite. It’ll fill in whatever blanks you want. Entire years of History class, downloaded. Masterpieces of literature not memorized, but digitized and hyperlinked, any info you need autofilling on your tongue. There will be apps to speak more clearly, more deeply, more engagingly. You’ll have a bus load of Winston Churchills.

The brain does more than know things. It runs things. Nanomachines in your bloodstream will prevent clots and alert you to infections and diseases. That’ll be good enough for the launch party. To make the real money, though? Motor skills. We can get your baby ready to walk the second his legs twitch. Perfect hand-eye coordination, no attention deficit because our data stream is double-checking the bloodflow in his brain. They will grow up inclined to athleticism, and in old age, even as their minds fail, we’ll keep their bodies from betraying them. No nervous twitches, spasms or epileptic fits. In-between, we can tone down those autoimmune responses. You know how many people don’t die from influenza, but just because their bodies overreact to the infection? Subscribe to our stream and you’ll never vomit again, and perhaps go your whole life without a fever, in addition to catching every early warning sign for diabetes and cancer. When we cook up the cures to diabetes and cancer, we’ll probably give you an automatic update that gives them to your body for free.

Technology can be dangerous. There will be outages. You may go through one of the few places without coverage, or a total blackout may leave a few city blocks without functioning bodies. So they won’t be able to stand and will soil themselves. Perhaps they’ll all die of heart attacks. I don’t think you’ll mind too much. You’ll mind enough to copy, paste and Like something on Facebook about it. But every year thousands of people die on our highways. We don’t stop the companies from making cars out of destructible plastic, or honor the speed limits with any diligence, or ban automobiles. Nothing to decrease the convenience of getting from place to place quickly. So when I offer you autodialing in your head, autofilling on your tongue, and never suffering from the symptoms of a flu ever again, all at a modest monthly package price, I don’t think you’re going to stop me. At worst I’ll find some other country that will inject its children with these, and they’ll get ahead, and your kids will do it to their kids to catch up. The rates will be higher then. That’s progress. Trust me.


  1. What a tangled web we weave; eh? Who would have thought this up except you? Really well done!

  2. The scarey thing to me is, so many would not even flinch at what should be your far-fetched predictions. When Steve Jobs announces the new intravenously absorbed Iphone, there will be a line camped out around the Best Buy with sleeves rolled up 72 hours prior to its release.

  3. I suspect it's not all that far off.

  4. Eerie in its beliveability, and very well written. Excellent work as always!

  5. Those last four lines bring it all home. terrified face


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