Ethan Levin is becoming more and more like a computer, viewing life as though he is stepping through the breaks of computer code. This is Ellen Ullman’s analogy that humanity is not being liberated by technology, but instead enslaved by it.
But we talked about this in class(and thus I’m going to rehash the old argument), and, while this is happening to Ethan there is another reversal occurring in lines of the text: technology is seemingly becoming more human. Part one introduces us to the bug UI-1017, a drab and rather boring name that tells us only the number of bugs that were found before it. Ethan Levin then attempts to test for it, and upon failing to find the elusive error, denies that it even exists. But again and again it appears, but eventually it instead goes by the moniker of Ethan Levin’s Bug, as though its Ethan’s pet, even though it’s clearly his greatest source of irritation. Finally, during part two, it is called the jester, due to its trickster elusiveness.
Now, the bug does not change, for it is most likely just a few short lines of code (I have not read ahead, so I have no idea where or what the bug actually is), and does not possess sentience. What has truly changed is the way the bug is viewed by Ethan Levin’s workplace. In their mind it is a trickster popping up every now and then give a show and make their lives harder.
Humans instinctively anthropomorphize everything. In ancient times, natural forces were the work of very sentient gods; today, things that are clearly not sentient are still viewed as though they are. Many people view their pets as though they have sense of self, even though there is great scientific evidence to counter this idea. When it comes to computers, however, we have done something far more interesting: we have made efforts to make them human.
On the first day of this class, I was told that it would have nothing to do the Star Trek character Data, and yet he greatly demonstrates this concept: he is a computer that is sentient and wishes to human. Now he is a work of science fiction, but Siri isn’t. I have an iPhone and while I never use Siri, I do have to admit that she (should be it, but that’s not what I wrote!) is an amazing program, one that can take what one says and actively answer the proposed statement or question. Like the bug being viewed as a crazy performer in multicolored clothes, Siri is viewed as a woman who lives inside your phone. As we drive technology forward, we also force it to become more like us.