Shovel in a Ditch

It always amazes me that with all our technology — we’ve walked on the moon and have computers in our pocket — we still have to send a man down in a ditch with a shovel.  There’s just no other way to do it sometimes.  I think when we conquer that, when manual labor ceases to be a human thing, whether it is robots or nanotech or whatever, that’s when we’ll really see the changes we’ve been talking about in science fiction for the past sixty or more years.  I’m not sure if I believe Ray Kurzweil, the champion of the Singularity theory, but I do expect to see radical change in the next thirty years or so.  I’ve already seen it in my life, how technology, once alien, inevitably sneaks in.  In 1999, as head system administrator for a growing tech company, I spent part of my first year without a cellphone.  And this was not considered strange.  Now, even my mother has one.  In 1992, as a freshman computer science major, I recall overhearing some classmates discussing something called the “World Wide Web.”  What’s that? I asked.  Can you imagine?  A few years later, you’d see little URLs at the bottom of magazine ads.  They were small so they didn’t confuse people who had no idea what they were; companies were still testing the internet waters.  The URLs also always began with the clunky “http://” because back then, most browsers would give you an error if you forgot it (and anyone who programs HTML knows this is still the case with href links).  Now, entire websites are the only thing advertised, just one big URL a la EHarmony.com.  So in about fifteen years we went from meek, skulking URLs to giant posters offering love online, and no one really thinks that’s all too weird anymore.

But, you know, after all of that we still sometimes have to send a man down in a ditch.