TECHNOPHOBICA by Jaimie Vernon

I continue to be in perpetual awe of human technology if for no other reason than it’s the dividing line between us and the rest of the animal kingdom except maybe cats who have been secretly running the planet for nearly 5,000 years without so much as giving us a heads up. Opposable thumbs have led us to more than just cracking coconuts open and banging rocks together in hopes of getting a record deal. Our search for knowledge fuels our desire to create better tools to obtain that knowledge faster so that we might then have more time to waste using time-wasting tools. It’s a perpetual cycle.

Back at the dawn of the nuclear age we wanted nicer cars, TVs, pre-heated ovens, and two compartment refrigerators where eggs had their own window seat. Now it means, well, the same thing plus a dose of other mind-numbing entertainment to occupy the extra 15 minutes we’ve accrued in 70 years of making things more convenient. We’re nothing if not industrious at sticking to long term make-work projects.

Just look at the pyramids – built by our ancestors so long ago that we can’t remember why we built them or what they were designed for. A certain American politician offered the theory that they were grain silos. He might have only been slightly wrong. My theory is that they were kibble silos for the cats who were the actual Pharaohs. And when the food ran out, they got us to start feeding them by hand because newly formed unions led by Moses certainly weren’t going to build more pyramids for them – at least not without better pay and holiday time. But I regress.

I’ve been an on again/off again early adopter. I am interested in gadgets only if they serve an actual need in my life – rather than a habitual desire. I’ve been a musician for 42 years. I own one acoustic guitar and an electric bass. The most I’ve owned in one place at one time is three musical instruments. I have no desire to curate a museum of guitars or the related gear that purports to make them sound better. When musicians talked shop around me they’d ask me what gear I had and I didn’t honestly know. I wasn’t a Luddite it’s just that it didn’t matter to me. The sound coming out of the guitar was all me regardless of the axe or the amp or the pedals. Isn’t it ironic then that musicians have a cow when people use auto-tune on vocals, but not when a guitar player back fills his/her sound with twelve foot pedals and three pre-amps to do the same thing.

Everything I’ve owned, past or present, has been for utilitarian purposes. It’s why I never cared about the depreciation value of my cars because I never bought them to resell them; I bought them to drive them into the ground. And since 1983, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I think I’m on vehicle number thirteen. I can hear the environmentalists’ heads exploding from here. Take note: my footprint has been greatly reduced because I don’t buy a new vehicle every 3 to 4 years.

Sadly, most technology – especially electronic – is pre-obsolete by its very nature. The minute the first one is sold to a consumer the clock starts ticking on its journey to becoming both passé and useless. Don’t fear, all you have to do is wait and there will be another to come along shortly – just like a bus or an Uber; the vacuum in your empty life will be filled temporarily until you need a bigger, better, brighter one. It’s the quenching of a hunger that has no affiliation with food. It’s the brain that craves it, and it’s senses working overtime.

And it isn’t just tactile devices and gadgets. We have the internet hooked through smart devices. It’s TV, radio, gaming, sex, and music all disguised as a scrolling Encyclopedia Galactica. It’s the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as a wiki. We don’t just archive the history of mankind now – we re-write it, debate it, and trade it like energy stocks. Whoever controls that information controls the world, and right now the media controls the world. And corporations own the media. The corporations also own the devices and gadgets we get that information from, and they tell us what we need in our lives. They’ve convinced us that what we need is more crap driven by technology, and so they give it to us, and we consume it. The cycle continues ad infinitum. Sheep led around by artificial intelligence.

I, for one, am glad of it. I do not yearn for those days of having to sharpen a pencil with a knife or having to unfold twenty cubic feet of road map every time I want to go somewhere. I enjoy the convenience of pumping my own gas and paying for it with a bank card. Or buying things online and have them delivered to my door without having to leave the house if I don’t want to. Or self-checkout at the grocery store because everyone around me is riddled with COVID. It saves me time. And one thing that technology can give us is time – literally and figuratively. Not only can it reduce our workload and extend our leisure time, it can also clean poison from a kidney and pump life into a pacemaker. It can set your security alarms remotely. It can help you find a mate. And it can help musicians write the next Toccata and Fugue in Dminor.

The common wisdom is that technology is a portent to doom as if it’s still a slippery slope waiting to be skated down. Truth is – the future is already here. We’re living in it NOW. If I need to send my wife money and we’re in two separate parts of the city, I can email the funds to her from my bank account. I can do this sitting in a car waiting for my Timmy’s double-double, walking through a park, or lying in bed while the cat demands I feed it. The entire transaction takes less than 10 minutes. In the distant past, a transaction like that would have required a coordinated military operation between me, her, and our two banks along with two tellers in a line-up with other inconvenienced, COVID terrorized citizens. It would have also meant taking time off work and driving across the city or waiting for the one day a week when the bank was open late. And the cat would be waiting at home demanding I still feed it.

Not only do we live in a connected 24 hour world. We live in a virtual connected 24 hour world – accessible even when we sleep. There is no going backwards, folks, unless we have a major technology failure at which point the key will be to bang rocks together and hope that the our cat overlords sympathize.


Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 41 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 24 years. He is also the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and editor of “Sunny Days: The Skip Prokop Story.” Available through Amazon.


One Response to “TECHNOPHOBICA by Jaimie Vernon”

  1. I thought it was the little white mice? When did the cats take over? 😉

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