February 26, 2007
This morning, on my bike ride, as I was pedaling hard down Anacapa, passing a small bus, I was struck with a realization that I’ve had before, but never so strongly. Bent over the handlebars and covered in synthetic materials to reduce wind resistance, pumping my legs up and down atop the most efficient human-powered vehicle ever designed, I was delighted to be eking out a minor lead against a lumbering utilitarian people-mover. Then a small econobox zoomed around the bus and left me behind.
And that’s as good as it gets. I might have been moving 35 miles per hour down the slight incline. Maybe a better cyclist could get up to 50 or 60, but no muscles are goingt to be a match for even the cheapest little Korean slushbox-driven golf cart. Not that it matters, in the scheme of things. The only thing I use my muscles for is recreation. I get up and exercise to stay in shape so that I can get up the next day and exercise. If my legs can’t match pistons, that’s OK. My physical exertion isn’t necessary for anything; it’s just a means to better health and an increased chance to sleep with attractive people.
We’ve got machines to do the heavy lifting. We still do the thinking. We still make the plans and design the machines. And (for the most part), we still hold the controls and choose where to drive. And there is so much still to be done. So much we can make better and brighter and faster. So many things to discover and understand. And there’s no way that a machine can do any of that.
But when it can, will I sit and do crossword puzzles to keep my mind stretched out after my morning bike ride? Will I have a reason to?
This is not by any means a profound insight. But, riding down the street this morning, It hit me on a visceral level.
I felt obsolete.