Electronics

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" In trust we trust. Amen."

Our new car, The Schooner, has very few moving parts. I expect in a few years to be able to buy a car with absolutely no moving parts. Once, cars were mostly moving mechanical parts. No longer! Now they're smart, or at least much smarter. Many of the formerly laboring mechanical parts have up-sold themselves into management positions thanks to the marvels of electronics. Our new car is a thinking car. It anticipates for us so we don't have to. It's not rocket-scientist brilliant or anything. It just maintains vigilance where ours might wane. It helps keep us safer and just that little bit saner, too. It almost seems benevolent, a friend.

A friend until something goes wrong
. Gone are the days when popping the hood might do anything more than gain one access to places to pour fluids. There's nothing to see under there. No carburetor, I guess. No spark plug wires. Well, the oil filter's mounted on top of the engine (why did it take so long to figure out it had always belonged there?), and look, isn't that a fan of some sort? This car isn't designed to break down with any of the old conventional failures. When it breaks down, it just goes dark.

Yesterday, I noticed that the backup camera wasn't working. This seemed like an extreme first world problem to me, too, but I thought of it as an outward indication of the presence of some deeper mystery. Oh, the radio won't display in the little dash-mounted screen either. The intelligent cruise control seems to be trying to apply the breaks instead of cruising. Something electronic seemed to be occurring. Of course this was a Sunday. I'll take the thing into the dealer on Monday.

The backup camera started working again. The radio reappeared and The Muse (the world's worst DJ, believe me) started flipping through the remarkable array of truly terrible 'channels', though I didn't trust the cruise control again. We made it home, though the trust between The Schooner and us was wounded. These cars without many moving parts run on trust because so few of their operations can be physically verified. It's almost as if the whole vehicle is fueled by trust. Refueling is a simple matter of pulling up to the pumps outside that inconvenience store and pumping in a few gallons of trust, regular or high-test, a commodity distributed by a monopoly somewhere. Were that it might be this simple. Instead, I'll schedule some time at the dealership where a mechanic I don't yet know will hold the sacred responsibility for reconnecting our trust with our hopefully trustworthy car. A faith-based initiative incarnate.

Electronics work until they don't, and when they don't you will not have the slightest clue what to do besides running back to the machine's mother pleading for mercy. Even the phone I use to call the mothership works via mystery and entirely depends upon trust. Some insist that we live in a faithless age, but I see us increasingly relying upon faith for everything. True, that might be faith in mammon, but it's faith nonetheless. Electronics, our new-age god, seem to insist that we trust with no personal way to verify. That's faith, mister. Make no mistake. In trust we trust. Amen.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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