The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant has waved farewell to the GTU (Grand Technological Utopia). Our life has not been transformed into an app-induced Nirvana where our every need gets fulfilled with digital pixie dust and untold riches await once we plug into our side hustle. But more on that anon.
The Rant decided that since TAFKATT (The Artist Formerly Known as The Teen) would soon be sailing into his third decade, we would purchase a new laptop for his birthday.1We sallied online where Best Buy informed us we could purchase the laptop from home and TAFKATT could pick it up at his college town Best Buy. What could be simpler, oh benevolent eCommerce?
That is where our sorrows began. After completing the transaction, we waited. And waited. TAFKATT also received no word. The Rant attempted to navigate the automated help system. By the way, the disembodied digital voice is on to us; we used to mash the zero key to skip all the preliminaries and head to the humans, but instead we got, “I understand you want to talk with a customer service person, but first I need to gather some information.” Insidious.
When we finally reached our human, she was distressed, distressed, to learn of our plight. They’re always distressed and/or sorry. The Rant has learned that the more distressed and sorry the human is the less satisfaction you will receive. A quick search revealed the laptop had arrived at the store days ago, causing even more distress and sorriness. Things began to look dim for The Rant.
The human called the store. Indeed the laptop had been sitting there twiddling its thumb drives, but the GAMOBBCS (Great and Mighty Oz Best Buy Computer System) could not verify the existence of our son. We debated asking whether this was an ontological or epistemological problem for GAMOBBCS, but we feared GAMOBBCS might start calling us Dave and denying us basic, life-giving services.2
When The Rant suggested we could produce the son in question in the flesh complete with government-issued, non-terrorist ID, Matt the store manager (The Rant had been passed on to Matt this point) sadly informed us GAMOBBCS did not truck in the physical plane; only confirmation from its software, based on an unknown series of ones and zeros, would suffice. So The Rant had a laptop; The Rant had a son; The Rant had a Matt possessing paperwork that confirmed all of the above. Never the twain did meet.
The LIL (Laptop in Limbo) experienced everything but transforming into a cockroach and standing at trial by a jury of servers to make its Kafka existence complete. Poor little fella. But The Rant knew when to fold. We cancelled the entire sordid transaction and turned the affair over to SSM (Spouse Supply Manager). The GTU is full of unicorns and puppies, until it isn’t, and no amount of common sense or human interaction will change the situation if the algorithm says it isn’t so.
The GTU also claims to transport one into the gig economy and financial freedom. What has happened instead is the creation of a new class of digital Robber Barons that have harnessed technology to propel backwards into the golden age of no safety regulations, no rights for workers, no liability protection, no benefits, and indentured servitude. The only way for these models to work is to take a sliver of everyone’s pie at enormous scale. A handful of people make money while those doing the actual work starve. That fiber optic straw drinks your milkshake, it drinks it up!
Companies like Uber3 enjoy telling us how grateful we should be for their paradigm exploding, disruption inducing, new newness business model. Beware of the wealthy complaining about your ungratefulness. Carnegie and Ford did so while busting heads and fighting against higher wagers, safety standards, and collective bargaining.4
The logic runs thus: I have become rich by figuring out a way around the rules everyone else has to follow and exploiting your labor. The least you could do is show some gratitude when I throw a few pennies your way out of my largesse. The Rant will pass. Now please excuse us while we try to figure out how to carve a laptop out of a bar of soap. Abandoning the GTU does require certain sacrifices.
- This will be the final laptop we will purchase. We already did the same with the car. The Rant becomes almost giddy when we acquire The Last of anything for our children. At some point you realize that parents don’t long for their children’s independence but their own.
- For those demanding answers: Being, Knowledge, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Has no one other than The Rant recognized that any company named Uber will only exist to act superior and kick you in the crotch whenever possible? I’m pretty sure that’s the mission statement.
- Ford wasn’t always beating up his employees. He needed time to indulge his antisemitism as well. Busy man.