According to scientists, life is nothing more than zillions of electrical impulses zapping through a lump of meat. Plants show measurable electrical activity, too.
This makes me wonder.
If life is really just electrical impulses, are our electronic devices alive? It would certainly explain a lot.
I tend to talk to inanimate objects. Sometimes with great feeling and vigour. At high volume. Usually involving phrases like “piece of shit”. Lately, though, I’ve been rethinking my approach. It all started with my car.
Several years ago, we stayed overnight in Banff. The temperature dropped to minus 30, and my husband went out to start the car while I waded through the checkout process in the hotel lobby. Some time later, he shivered his way back into the lobby to inform me that the car was completely dead. The engine wouldn’t turn over. It didn’t even click. It was frozen solid.
I’ve always been a pigheaded git, so I had to see for myself. The fact that we’re still married is a testament to my husband’s tolerance.
I slid into the driver’s seat, patted the car’s dashboard, and crooned, “Poor little car! It’s just too cold for you, isn’t it?” Then I turned the key. The car started instantly.
Coincidence? I think not. There’s more.
We have an ancient boat-anchor of a printer. It’s slightly younger than I am, and weighs almost as much. It’s gradually becoming more and more temperamental, but we put up with it because I can buy the toner super-cheap on eBay, and because I have moral objections to purchasing a new duplexing colour laser printer whose toner cartridges cost more than the printer itself.
The printer moans, groans, jams, inexplicably has errors that require a restart, and frequently fails to print one or more colours. While this has resulted in some truly interesting magenta-toned images, it’s really not all that useful. And it’s damn frustrating when you’re trying to print under any sort of deadline.
Applying my newfound understanding of electronic sentience, I stopped swearing at it several months ago. Instead, I pat it gently and chirp encouragement. This has three purposes.
Firstly, I’m sucking up to the printer just in case it’s listening. Secondly, it keeps my blood pressure down. And lastly, it drives my husband bonkers when the printer cooperatively spits out copy after copy for me, and then locks up solid with an insolent grinding sound as soon as he tries to print something.
Yeah, he still swears at it.
Sadly, baby-talking the printer also makes me look like a complete moron, but what the hell, I’ve never been overendowed with dignity. And it’s really nice when the printer works.
Do you talk to your electronics? Do they talk back? Are they… alive?