Nanotechnology: An Examination of Hopelessness, Ray Bradbury-Style
By Madeline Phoenix
There was a grand rainstorm today; it caused the power lines on our road to collapse, due to the colossal impact of a withered old oak tree. For almost four hours, we were bereft of technology’s ‘affectionate’ touch. Well, a house seems somber and gloomy without the cheerful, hospitable air of artificial orange-red lights, so we went out for a drive. The sky lit with the strange pulsations of an amber sunset, and a tapestry of His intricacy unspooled over the velvety horizon; the clouds of the sky sang with mysterious, mournful hues of turquoise, periwinkle and aquamarine, and a peculiar shade of rosy sepia made sensual love to the orange mesas of the storm-filled clouds. Clarisse was one of the only people, in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, to see those sunsets, and to think about their beauty. Every other character was trapped within the thrall of their ‘family’, and the walls within which their technology constructed their reality. Clarisse meditated on the meaning and profundity of the natural world, and for this she was murdered. “I sometimes think that drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them…” (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451).
While I write this, I contemplate what I’m using to write it: a 27-inch iMac that has a 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5 processor. This computer, like my iPhone, is constructed of tiny little microchips, and I am guided through everyday tasks by a helpful lady named Siri who has enough artificial intelligence to tell me what to eat for dinner and how to get there. My iMac and my iPhone record and track everything I do; when I think about it, I realize that they might call them friendly little things like “cookies,” but nothing I do on the Internet is private, and nothing I do on this computer is safe from surveillance. Maybe I sound paranoid, but sometimes I imagine a million beady invisible eyes watching me. They crawl up into my skin and pluck out my eyes; and then they are my eyes, and I see only what they allow me to, for beauty and truth indeed are in the eye of the beholder. They burrow deep beneath the drooping skin of my shadow-stained eyelids, and the sleep they have stolen from me conquers my worn visage. I can’t cry out or plead for some ridiculous, ill-begotten mercy because I’m too blind to realize that they’re eating me from the outside in. I am frozen in time now, and the artificial twinkling of Their bug eyes pervade the timeless fibers of my immortal soul. It is a cure, a gift, a prize, they proclaim; and I must trust the elastic skull-tight beached bleached blonde model on the grain-coarse screen, mustn’t I?
When I touch the fake, flimsy Flexiglass screen of my cell phone, a century’s worth of my intelligence filters away like dewdrops from a hot blade of viridescent green grass. The virtual ghosts of the future ensnare humanity—we just aren’t Ebenezer Scrooge. We don’t need to improve ourselves, or change from a miser to a lovely benefactor; we need to wake up and burn the bugs away before they claw their slimy infectious way into the cord-grey of our moldering brains.
Nanotechnology has arrived in the U.S.A., but it’s not like democracy. It doesn’t allow people to learn, or flourish, or demonstrate any sign of individuality. It’s not freedom; it’s a sort of mind-slavery that will never truly go away unless we as a people battle it. It’s not just some nightmarish monster looming over the cavernous shadows of humanity’s future; it’s festering within the very marrow of our world today.
Whenever our phones blare a scarlet ‘1’ from System Preferences, we are given a new software update—an update that only welcomes more of the monsters into our hardware. Whenever we download the latest app updates from App Store, we are exchanging parcels of ourselves—but for what? For whom? We are not receiving anything in return, except for the manacles of false pleasure. Do we surrender to the vivid lights and secretive bugs embedded within the very threads of our subconscious because we’re bored?
It’s a quotidian action in these dying times to choose the colorful, simpler meme or post, rather than expend the effort and manna to open a tome of majestic knowledge; to live in these times is to exist as an amusement addict, addicted to useless information and biased propaganda; we are in the need of the next meme or vine or tweet to bring laughter to our dimming brains and synthetic perverse gems to our corrugated hearts. Nanotechnology has created the fabled handheld computer; cell phones can hold thousands of images, whereas the older, larger PC—which would consume an entire room, while cell phones take up the space of a palm and nothing more—could only retain one-fourteenth of the common electronic photograph.
People are forgetting compassion as a result of nanotechnology. They tap away at their keyboards, or the alphabets super-imposed upon their flickering touch screens, and they say cruel things to others—and, since they cannot see that their malice is hurting an actual person, they feel entitled to say whatever comes to their mind, whether it is ‘do cows snort up milk while laughing like humans do,’ or something else far worse. Recently, a sixteen-year-old sophomore girl who was part of the high school’s choir went missing. An adult Facebook Friend of mine shared a press release that stated: “Human remains were found;” but she did not speak of the situation with love or compassion. She said that the community needed to have a ‘loud, open’ discussion about gun safety and where gun owners should store their guns. The death is believed to have been a self-inflicted gun wound. Not once in her post did she offer prayers or sorrow or blessings to the family of the deceased girl; not once did she speak of the sadness or agony this family who has lost a child must be suspended within; no, she merely used the death of this girl to further her own political agenda. Unfortunately, this lack of empathy and terrible selfishness is not an isolated occurrence. Nanotechnology waters the worst within a person and drowns the goodness in a harmful pestilence, for which the cure is almost impossible to find.
As Clarisse says, ”Sometimes I’m ancient. I’m afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way?…I’m afraid of them and they don’t like me because I’m afraid.” (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451). Children these days, like the people Clarisse fears in Fahrenheit 451, would rather laugh about Fortnite than try to better themselves and their dying world. Fortnite is the incorrect spelling of ‘fortnight’, or a two-week period of time, and another epidemic brought upon the world with the rise of the Nanobot Age is ‘text-talk’, or illiteracy; it’s easier to watch an artificial screen of pixels, isn’t it? In all honesty, I find it easier to peruse social media than write; instead of creating new worlds with my words, I am furnished with a web of lies—and lies are silkier than truth; lies aren’t as hard to create. Lies obscure pulchritudinous pathways bordered with real flowers. Reality, virtual reality…if I swallow the red pill, won’t I be BORED? After all, life seems monotonous and colorless, what with all the iridescence and vivid hues of the virtual web the nanobots have enfolded us within.
How does nanotechnology affect the natural world? In order to obtain the resources necessary to create our phones and computers, and to power the “Cloud” in which all of our Google and other documents are stored, massive amounts of energy are used. Take a data farm in Northern Dulles, Virginia. It’s a massive institution, storing hard drives that collect and record our data. How much oil and coal is drained from the land, just to fuel this single farm? Multiply that single farm by hundreds or even thousands, because at least that many are needed to contain our virtual “Cloud” of information. And what of the resources used to build our semiconductor chips and other tiny bits that are used to send, store and receive our data? Each so-called “bit” requires energy. The land we live on fuels the creation of all this energy. At some point, the calculus of this land-pillage will become too great of a problem for humans to solve. Then we’ll call in our CPU’s and robots, and they will be in charge of our blue Earth.
There is an alternative. Come to my garden with me, and look at the yellow flowers; spring has at last arrived, and the lovely sun-yellow flowers resemble a lady’s fine slippers. These are real, and these are good. Watch the lilac trees and crape myrtles flirt with the glimmering cerulean sky while they sway to and fro in the wind; feel the light, frivolous teasings of the soft, flimsy flower blossoms while they swoosh past, buoyed along on the zephyrs of time summoned by the Vernal Equinox. None of these are unreal; and all of these are good. All of these are true; one does not need a substitute.
I still feel the teensy bugs, devouring every ounce of the natural world. I mourn for the ethereal emerald-azure hue of Mother Earth’s precious oceans, for it has little time remaining before it grows rancid, infected by the acid rain and smog and waste the nanotechnology has left behind in its apocalyptic wake. Soon, the nanotechnology will conquer the oceans too. Nanotechnology is fueled by the consumption of fossil fuels, whose production destroys this good Earth. The cloudless cerulean sky of a flawless gay day—will it not also succumb to pillars of dark smog and spirals of dying birds? Will the birds soon cease to chirp and sing everlasting choruses of truth, love and hope? And, as these things crest and trough like the tides of the waning ocean, people will be too addicted to their handheld devices and matrixes of un-thought to even notice; they will not even be able to raise a protest.
I never liked the sensation of being watched. And yet here I am, wondering how long it will take for the bugs to burrow beneath humanity’s eyelids; have they not done so already? How much longer do we have left before this dangerous dance ends with our souls exposed to their wicked darkness? We have no ‘red pill’; no crimson magic to rescue us from our failings; for the vibrant flashings of the screens have made us color blind. We have only our lackluster human shells and the looming specter of nanotechnology. Burrowing, burrowing…and we cannot even feel the pain, for the nanotechnology has already devoured us. What will be left?
What could be left?
 As it may have been noted, this essay is in electronic format. This only demonstrates the ‘efficiency’ of nanotechnology—it is faster to type this into a computer than to interact with a pen and a sheet of paper.