So here we are in 2001 and we haven’t established colonies on the moon. Science Fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s image of a future world in which an advanced computer named Hal goes a little funny in the old logic circuits and embarks on a minor killing spree hasn’t quite become actual, even though we sometimes feel that computers are running our lives. As I write this I am in fact sitting in front of a computer. My bank teller keeps urging me to do my banking online, even though I point out that if we all banked through computers we wouldn’t need tellers anymore.
The teller simply gave me a smile and a shrug as if to say what can we do?
Yes, the computer age does have its annoyances. I log in to check my email every morning and proceed to delete a series of bold advertisements that try to convince me that:
I can make bucketloads of money by simply sitting at home and surfing the net.
Groundbreaking diets can help me shed enough weight to play the part of Tinkerbell in the next remake of Peter Pan.
If I’m feeling somewhat paranoid, I can run detailed security checks on anyone I know. Come to think of it, that pizza delivery guy did look a little suspicious last night.
A free trip to the Bahamas is just waiting for me to claim it.
All my debts will be magically wiped out.
I can buy liquid viagra without a prescription.
Once I’ve bought the viagra I can, so they tell me, date supermodels from around the world.
Without even so much as opening a book, I can earn just about any kind of college diploma that you can imagine.
Tempting as these offers may sound, I am not quitting my day job, or packing my beachwear, or taking acting lessons, or trading in my wife for
19 year old Swedish exchange students named Elsa. As frustrating as all the garbage that comes my way via the technological sub-miracle that is the internet, I simply hit the delete button and all the waste is magically flushed away until the next time I sign on.
So what is it that I’m rambling on about? Well, I’m getting there. Though computers are increasingly becoming an inescapable aspect of modern society, they do not pose the threat to us that Hal did to the astronauts he was supposed to be helping in 2001 : A Space Odyssey. Our computers are still fairly ignorant and are only capable of doing what we tell them to do. They are just tools. The threat is still us.
While we embark into the brave new world that is the 21st century, some PQ party hard-liners, like a certain M. Michaud seem determined to remain in a dark and primitive era that should have been deleted long ago. When he went public with his insidious and divisive remarks about Jews and ethnic communities standing in the way of a free and independent Quebec, Michaud reminded us all that, even though we have developed incredibly advanced technologies, the human mind can still lag far behind. Even though my bank teller is encouraging me to step forward into the seemingly inevitable world of cyber-space, dinosaurs like Michaud are still out there trying to encourage members of our society to slide back into a mode of thinking that was all the rage in Munich and Berlin when a little Austrian guy with a moustache was running the show. It is some consolation, however, that outgoing leader Lucien Bouchard took the time to condemn the attitudes expressed by Yves Michaud. I was no fan of Bouchard’s separatist objectives, but I can’t help but respect the man for standing up as a true democrat. I never thought I’d ever hear myself say this, but I think I might actually miss the guy.