I am wondering how we have incorporated technology into our lives. Discussing this with my students in our current unit about World War 1, we looked at the propaganda machine that drove public opinion toward favoring the Allied war effort as a holy quest to end the terror of the German warmongers. For some reason, I immediately thought of this episode of The Twilight Zone. Here, we have a man, convicted of a crime and exiled as punishment to a planet far from home. IN an act of compassion, one of the supply ship crew members, which visited every few months or so, left a package for this man which contained the perfect companion, in the form of a woman. She did everything for him and despite his initial rejection of her, stayed with him and served him. Of course you can guess the outcome of the story, he eventually became reliant on her companionship, fell in love with her and so on.
One day, the supply ship returned with news his sentence had been commuted and they were to take him home. Of course, she could not go, primarily because her mere presence was against the rules and if she left with him they all would be found out and a mess would ensue. As a last resort, after the man’s interminable begging not to leave her, one of the crew shot her in the face, deactivating her and of course, showing her for what she really was: a machine.
The moral of the story centered on how this man became reliant on this perfect woman who was programmed to meet his every need, to the point of being bereft of any sense of self-reliance. And now you may ask, if you haven’t already, why I have gone through all of this? The point is, how reliant have we become on machines to do our work for us? When we misplace our cell phone, we turn the world upside down trying to find it. When our computer crashes, our lives crash along with it. When the net is down, the Earth ceases to spin on its axis. I suppose I am asking how far can we go, should we go, in making machines so life-like and so “real” that we begin to replace warm-blooded human contact with them? And at what expense?