NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier: Alone Together At Last

bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

I have been known to complain bitterly about computers and the internet, even as I use them every day. But it occurs to me in the present situation that I may have been wrong, that computers are leading us towards a new, safer and more survivable world.

The very essence of the internet is separation – physical separation. It puts distance between one human being and another. You can chat to your friends and family, perhaps for years, without ever having to see them. You can remotely watch your children sleeping in their beds or your aged parents sleeping in their nursing home. Automated checkouts are everywhere so you don’t have to speak to fellow human, or you can order your food and just about everything else online, so you don’t have to go out at all. At the bank your friendly tellers are being replaced by machines that look like cheap props left over from a Star Wars movie. Soon the Uber that comes to your door will have nobody in the driving seat, and remote diagnosis is gaining ground in medical practice. Remote treatment, remote surgery, and remote funerals cannot be far behind.

As for the schools and universities, distance learning is already well established and will soon be universal, so a great many unsightly buildings can be demolished, and a great many ugly yellow buses sent to the junkyard. This will be a huge bonus for young people, enormously increasing their leisure time. Even if distance learning doesn’t work very well, ignorance will be no handicap because smart machines will soon do everything for us.

Most of our human contacts are becoming unnecessary. Social media offer an unlimited source of imaginary friends. Television and computers bring any amount of entertainment into the home, including virtual sports for those athletically inclined. The intimate rituals of love and courtship have been simplified and speeded up on the internet. Nobody has quite solved the problem of babies yet, but they will. Face-to-face meetings and conferences were always a complete waste of time and money and can now be relegated to cyberspace.

The caring guardians of the state will find it much easier to keep an eye on us without intrusive human spies or secret police. Wars can be safely conducted from hygienic bunkers, using drones, while peaceful drones can deliver our packages.

This is all very encouraging. The virus scare is pushing us swiftly towards a no-contact, an effortless electronic utopia of isolated individuals, each in his or her own pod with his or her own screen. This is truly the right technology at the right time.

The only problem is money. I mean real money, cash, not electronic money which is an illusion invented by the financial industry. Coins and notes are inevitably and necessarily contaminated, and they pass from hand to hand with no thought of hygiene whatsoever. But that is about to change. We are on the verge a cashless economy in which we will spend our imaginary electronic money with our contactless credit cards, and no virus will stand a chance.

Copyright: David Bouchier