My Camaro Dreams in Analog

Computers may prove to be more intelligent than humans, at least at Jeopardy, but can Watson romance a woman the way Hudson Hongo can?

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I’ve been watching Jeopardy, and it’s true, Miss, I’m no Watson. Perhaps Watson would know better than to come to your workplace, and maybe a supercomputer would have known to wear a shirt. But can a machine hope, dream, or feel wonder? Can it experience epiphany upon a landscape or behold a true work of art with rapture? And above all, could a simple machine take you out for a Friday night that’s guaranteed to be seriously bitchin’?

Yes, there are machines that can take you out, which we call cars, and even shiny little discs that can entertain, which we call pornography, but have any of these so-called “conveniences” made the human condition more vivid? Can a computer teach you how to enjoy a peach? Does it know which outside door the planetarium leaves unlocked? Even if it did, would a computer even, like, get Laser Zeppelin?

Perhaps you’re more of an electronica fan, favoring the economy of the drum machine to punishing psychedelic riffs, but if we really want to live in a world where efficiency trumps all other values, isn’t there a more humane way to achieve it? For example, by taking advantage of this two-for-one Arby’s coupon I’ve been saving for a special lady such as yourself? Hypothetically, of course; I own many different coupons.

If I were to ask how a machine could ever care for a person like I can, you might mention how medicine has given us longer, healthier lives. But what does “care” even means to a machine that has never known the embrace of a mother, much less a mother who I swear you’re going to love when you pick me up from her house, even though it’s more like she lives with me?

Some people say that machines will one day surpass the intellect of man; others say they already have. But name a computer that knows when the bakeries throw out their day olds and will totally tell you once you become his gf. You can’t. And if computers are so intelligent, how come I haven’t met one yet that can outsmart a hammer?

I suppose it’s just the nature of the media to sensationalize innovation, obsessing over that which is new and fashionable while ignoring simple truths. But who’s to say we must accept these values? Can we not raise our heads above the din and admire the human values which are timeless? As advanced as they are, no machine can be your companion in empathy, holding you tenderly when you’re at your lowest and laughing with you in times of joy. These are qualities held only by man, perhaps all men. But do “all men” know a manager at Reptile World who can get you in after hours to watch them feed the pythons, no questions asked? No, only one man can make that promise — this guy


Photo by dav

Hudson Hongo lives in the Pacific Northwest, and it will stay that way if he can help it. He has written for McSweeney's and The Morning News. Hudson maintains a web presence here.