Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Spock and IT, Great Expectations Crash Into Reality

I was discussing this with my sister Lo this morning, how our expectations of technology -- particularly personal technology -- don't match up with what it can actually deliver.

This, as her laptop was locked up trying to download a massive file someone sent her.

I said our expectations are wildly out of sync with reality. And I blame Star Trek.

Here's the thing. For my generation, our earliest impressions of what technology could do were formed by watching Star Trek. This provided the basis for what we expect it TO do, and it most regularly fails to even approach that standard.

Typically, there'd be a scene where three Romulan Birds of Prey had just de-cloaked off the port beam of the Starship Enterprise and were preparing to attack.

We'd then cut to the bridge of the Enterprise, where a serene Mr. Spock would be having a very casual conversation with the computer, asking it to apply more power to the forward shields and prepare to fire a full spread of photon torpedoes.

And the whole thing would be just completely effortless, with the computer responding, "No problem Mr. Spock, I'll take care of that right away. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

And here I sit, typing away on my computer, knowing full well that if the Romulans de-cloak off my port beam, I'm in a buttload of trouble.

Because my laptop can't do that.

I call this "Star Trek Socialization of Technology: Expectations Versus Reality." I'm pretty sure there's a doctoral thesis in there somewhere.

Update: Just after I uploaded this, my laptop completely tanked on me. Totally locked up, couldn't move the cursor. Ctrl-alt-del -- no response. I had to unplug the power cable and remove the battery to turn it off, then plug it back in to reboot. Do you think I hurt its feelings?

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