It’s… Alive!

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?

14 Comments

Filed under Humour

14 responses to “It’s… Alive!

  1. Zoë

    My computer doesn’t like me. I pat it and pet it, I encourage it, then it decides it won’t load anything and go kaput. My dad go “grrr” and goes off in a strip if it doesn’t work (which is normally when I have called him to try and fix it) but when anyone else uses it, it works fine! It honestly just hates me. I wonder what I did wrong.

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  2. Pingback: Barbie, Celebrity Affairs, and Altering Reality | Diane Henders

  3. Val

    I talk to everything: printers, computers, birds, toilet rolls, the waste bin in the kitchen, my shoes. Do I talk to them sweetly? It depends. If the keyboard has inadvertently been fed biscuit crumbs I try to make it feel better about it, if I’ve greased the mouse with butter, ditto. But my printer upstairs whinges something rotten and talks to itself and sometimes my patience wears thin.

    Of course it could just be ‘a woman’s touch’…

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  4. I have two printers, one on either side of my computer. I don’t remember why this is so, but it is. The printers take turns disappearing from my computer’s radar. One day the HP color laser won’t print, and the next day the Brother copier-printer-scanner loses consciousness. I don’t talk to them, but I believe they talk to each other through sudden and frequent “calibrating” sessions. I do talk to the computer, however, usually in the form of outbursts, like “The printer is right there! Look, eleven inches to your left! What’s the problem?” (That doesn’t help, by the way.)

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  5. SandySays1

    My human talks to his electronics, his car, his boat motor, and occasionally his wife. With the exception of those conversations with his wife, most are in simple language mostly composed of four letters. Not so with wifey…I think he wants to stay alive.
    Sandy
    http://www.sandysays.wordpress.com

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    • I think inanimate objects tend to understand words of the short, four-letter variety most readily. That must be why most people communicate with them that way. More research is required.

      Communicating with wives, however, requires a very specialized set of language skills. Your human is clearly a wise man.

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  6. Lol. I am a software engineer and I sometimes coax my code to work 🙂 SIlently usually. Telepathy. They are alive and are capable of reading thoughts 😛 Try that next time

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    • Oooh, telepathy. You’re braver than I am. But I’m not sure I like the idea of mind-reading machines. Excuse me while I go and wrap aluminium foil around my head (’cause everybody knows that blocks telepathic communication).

      …Right?

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  7. I don’t talk to my electronics, and I really don’t think they’re “alive” in the traditional sense, but I don’t doubt they possess a rudimentary form of consciousness. Here’s an excellent article exploring synthetic consciousness: http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/imaging/can-machines-be-conscious/0

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