In the first few pages of The Bug, the narrator portrays a bleak outlook on the interaction of humans and technology. She encounters an immigration officer in the airport terminal using an antiquated database management software. Because of this bit of software she has to wait a whole 30 seconds before proceeding. During those 30 seconds she reflected on other technology that might make you wait. This idea that technology is wasting our time seems to be shared by many in society today. However, is this a problem with the technology or a symptom of society’s impatience with it?
The scenario that unfolded in the terminal immediately made me think of a stand up routine from Louis C. K. (FYI: Its Louis C. K. so there will be vulgar language):
It is an interesting coincidence that Louis is also talking about computing devices and airplanes just like the narrator. However, he is more concerned about the perception of the imperfections in technology. Through his jokes, he takes jabs at individuals needing instant gratification from their cell phones or others unsatisfied with their wait time in a terminal for a plane. The problems these individuals have are construed from a narrow perspective on their place in time. The wait time to send a text message to the other side of the planet is unbelievably fast, whatever it is. That signal turns into binary, then is translated to electric signals, then radio frequencies, then shot through the air and bounced around towers, back to electric signals, and then reversed back through that process on the other side. What would sending that same message 50 years ago take? It would surely take a lot longer than the spinning our glass or rotating circles on your phone while you wait for 5 seconds.
All forms of technology have an element of waiting from computers, to air travel, to communication, etc. All things will take some amount of time to complete. The Pyramids weren’t built in a day. Our inability to accept these time constraints is a reflection solely on ourselves. This relies on an egocentric view of the interaction between humans and technology. Society demands that technology always be better and faster, but couldn’t begin to even describe how it works most of the time. As Louis implies, the first step to get over this egocentric perspective is to simply take a step back. Realize that all the devices we rely on from day to day were not here 100 years ago. No one would claim the devices are perfect, but they can be improved on and made better. Our impatience on the other hand, is something we must confront internally.