Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Upside, sure. How about downside?

The upside to technology is inherently obvious. The ultimate usefulness of personal computers to the business world is undeniable - especially compared to previous paper-based methods. 12 people can do what 100 did before computers, that sort of thing. Even Greenspan eventually acknowledged the role IT technology played during the nineties on productivity and GDP.

But what about the downside?

My book turns inSyte into a drug metaphor that my main character gets hooked on. Sort of a natural progression of our dependency on the technology we have today. You leave your house without your cell phone for a 5 minute trip to the store and maybe that’s OK. But if you’re going out for 4 hours and know you’re going to be spending much of that time in waiting areas – well, you’re turning your car around because you’re dependent on the smartphone.

Read below for an excerpt from my novel, inSyte. In my next blog, I'll explore some of the downsides to technology today.

He needed to turn on. Losing the ability to search the Grid as part of his memory left him feeling incomplete, unsure… empty. He wanted it back. For himself. InSyte was his and it had been taken.

Mitch remembered reading an article as a kid that described highly addictive online computer games. The article listed case after case of poor sad sacks who chose games over true life. A thirty six year old lost his job and destroyed his marriage. The man was not much of a role model to his young children, but he progressed to Level fifty-eight as Madrid, the Great Shaman of the North Land. That’s all that mattered.

A word was coined to describe such electronic addiction – heroinware. Online self-help groups sprung up to deal with the fallout. Online forums swelled with refugees from online worlds. All had harrowing stories of runaway gaming habits, lives ruined, friends lost, marriages broken. Madrid, the Great Shaman of the North Land, was so obsessed over getting to level sixty that he fatally neglected his youngest child and the game was implicated in the death of the infant.

Game manufacturers were analogized to drug dealers. The first dose was free. Download and play. If you like it then, you know, come back and register, dude. Plenty more where that came from.

Mitch smiled like a man who’d gone all in, everything he had. More than he had. All he would ever have. Then watched his four aces get beat by an improbable straight flush. Because of the wild cards. The Joker. Casinos called them bugs. He had developed a physical dependency to the Grid. His Grid. He tried to avoid the word addiction. He’d thought the chemical that Russian bastard used in the parking garage caused his cramping and nausea. Now he knew better.

He tried to look online for an old Steppenwolf song and felt momentary panic, like a man reaching for his pack of cigarettes who finds an empty shirt pocket. Mitch tried to remember the lyrics and couldn’t. He shook his head and focused on searching his actual memories instead of the Grid. His mind resisted like it didn’t want to make the effort. Or had forgotten how. He concentrated harder and the lyrics came.

The pusher is a monster, not a natural man. Goin to sell you lots of sweet dreams. The pusher will ruin your body but he’ll leave your mind to scream. God Damn the pusher man.

OK, a little downside to inSyte. A technical hiccup, if you will, Mr. Buyer. Nothing to worry about. Sort of like biting into a juicy steak with a pink center that melts in your mouth and the only problem, minor point really, it’s crawling with death because it’s got this germ deep inside that will huff and puff and blow your house down.

But it’ll leave your mind to scream.

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