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Eating iChips By the Waters of Babylon

The other night, some friends and I were hanging out in a hotel room listening to music.  At some point, the Eric Benet song “Ghetto Girl” featuring Meshell Ndegocello (dude, I know. I assure you that it was not my iPod. I’m not saying I don’t have the album, I’m just saying it ain’t on my iPod.), and for the life of me I couldn’t remember what album the song appeared on.  Neither could anyone else.  But we were all too lazy to grab one of our web-enabled phones to Wiki the query and scratch the curiosity itch.  I joked that these were the kinds of moments when some kind of transparent Google page needed to appear as if in midair so that one could type in the question without having to move from one’s very relaxed position.  Someone asked where something like that would generate; I shrugged and replied that maybe it would be like a kind of projection from our eye that just appeared in front of our face.  My friend, Imi said it would be called an iChip, and it would probably be inserted in your brain just behind your ear.

We talked on and on about the possibilities, the inevitability of that kind of technology.  Google, Apple, and the like continue to create products and applications we never thought we needed.  (Seriously, who knew I needed a website where I could constantly update what I was doing until I signed up for it?)  Given the subject matter, it was a pretty humorous conversation.  We discussed everything from whether or not you’d have to type anything or if you could channel your thoughts into the iChip, or if you could buy apps to become smarter.

The more I think about it, the more fateful the whole thing seems.  How much smaller can these devices get?  Eventually, the recently released iPad will evolve from the size of a piece of paper to that of an index card, to that of a wallet, to that of a Post-it, and then…  I saw a guy on the subway the other day.  He had so much crap attached to his belt–I noticed an iPod, an iPhone, and a Blackberry on one side alone–I feared what might happen should his bladder need immediate emptying.  Dude looked like an extra from Minority Report.

The idea of an iChip doesn’t seem all that ridiculous.  Of course, it’s an age-old discussion, and I’m not the only one thinking about it.  Music alone provides several examples.  There are robots everywhere.  Janelle Monae (her early effort aptly named Metropolis) is the queen of arch androids.  Yukimi Nagano, lead singer of (the absolutely awesome) band, Little Dragon, had this to say on the eve of the release of the group’s 2009 sophomore effort, Machine Dreams, “These days, humans seem more and more like machines, and as technology evolves, machines feel more human and it becomes fuzzy and beautiful and science fiction-ish. We feel dependent on our machines to create and live, and their sounds reflect us.”  Erykah Badu’s looks like earth mother goddess meets the tin man meets C3PO, full of ankhs and screws, on her latest album cover.  What do we make of this latest deluge of artists commenting on our most recent technological mutations?  How can we remain vigilant and critical of these new “advances” without being fearful of what (dreams) may come?

Indeed, the pace at which we’re bombarded with these new technologies is sometimes overwhelming for me to say the least.  Maybe I’m just getting old.  Perhaps I’ve seen Gattaca and the Terminator series too many times, or perused Octavia Butler’s Parable series once too often.  I’m occasionally a little too angsty to prefix my modern with a “post-.”  Our cars might not fly the way Back to the Future II said they would, but eventually something more than Red Bull may want to give us wings.  I’m not scared, but I’m wary.   As we eat (from) this (tree of) knowledge too fast, we should be sure not to choke on the apple core.

I still want an iPad, though–I think.