Who’s in Control Here?

image

They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them. 

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury is the story of the Hadley family and their automatic home. Not a shoe gets tied, nor a piece of toast gets buttered without the help of their home. George and Lydia splurged to buy their children a nursery that changes into whatever they want it to be with one thought. It is used as a psychological tool for helping them deal with their anxieties. At present, the nursery is a hyper-realistic African Veldt complete with lions that smell and sound just like the real thing. The lions are just as intimidating as the real thing as well (though the emanating screams and the smell of blood don’t help with the overall vibe). After a few close calls with the nursery, George has a psychologist come and look at it. He tells them to immediately shut down the nursery and get their kids into therapy. George shuts the nursery down, but gives into his children’s whining for just a moment and lets them play in it while he gets changed to leave. The children then call their parents into the nursery and allow them to be eaten by the lions, so that their way of life wouldn’t change.

Bradbury’s story can be seen as a cautionary tale of how letting technology take on a pseudo-parenting role in a child’s life can be detrimental to an entire family. Perhaps if George had put his foot down that one last time and refused to let the children back into the nursery, they might have survived. Regardless, something deeper is going on here. This is a family who has allowed their lives to be completely taken over by technology. Their children’s lack of real parenting is just an extension of having a house that is capable of doing everything for them. If their house can take care of it, why shouldn’t they let it? They have not only lost control of their children, but they have lost control of their own lives and rendered themselves impotent, in effect. The important thing here is, they have control over technology they just choose not to employ it.

Bradbury seems to further introduce this idea in his short story “There Will Come Soft Rains”. It is the post-apocalyptic story of a (mostly) empty house in a neighborhood in ashes. The house is fully automatic, and goes through the routine of the day even without any humans inside. It lists off bills to be paid, makes pancakes, and tiny little robotic mice even come out to clean:

Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted. The rooms were a crawl with the small cleaning animals, all rubber and metal. They thudded against chairs, whirling their mustached runner, kneading the rug nap, sucking gently at hidden dust. They like mysterious invaders, they popped into their burrows. Their pink electric eyes faded. The house was clean.

As the day wears on, a dog covered in sores comes in through the dog door and dies. The house goes on with it’s routine for a bit, but then a tree limb breaks through the window setting off a chain reaction that ends with the house engulfed in flames. The story ends there. With no water left in it’s tanks after days of watering the lawn, etc. it has nothing to put the flames out with. The house dies.

The moral of the story is that even a fully automated, technology packed house needed humans in order to live. Humanity is what keeps technology alive. Computers wouldn’t go on if the entire population of the world was wiped out. We are in charge of, and even the purpose for technology.

We are in control and it’s time to start acting like it.

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8 thoughts on “Who’s in Control Here?

  1. Megan, the following statement you made in your post really stood out to me: “The house dies” (in Soft Rains). This astute observation really sums up the essence of the story: an inanimate object actually experiences “death”. It’s almost as of the house has been given human abilities and thus suffers a human demise.

    • It seems as though the house is a character in the story, too, and goes out of its way to protect its children, like a parent who disagrees with the other’s parenting.

  2. Hi there! You noted something I noted about “The Veldt.” You said the parents “rendered themselves impotent.” I wrote “self-rendered obsolescence” in the margin. I think this is a sci-fi theme that is becoming more and more relevant today. It is sort of crazy to look at the way we have engineered this dependence by making it sexy a la Apple, eg. There seems to be an emerging social awareness of this irony happening these days.

    • I would agree that it seems like we are at least aware of our own self-absorption (which is really all a strong attachment to social media is). It seems like more and more people are discussing “how much is too much?” when it comes to technology, and also “what is the price?” Being self-aware enough to ask the questions is half of the battle.

  3. Your indeed correct when you say that “they have control over technology, they just choose not to employ it.” Its easy to become engrossed in it, causing ourself to become lazy. For example, instead of calling someone you text or message them to avoid having to spend that time on the phone. The sad part of these stories is that they don’t sound outlandish; we could very well end up this way.

    • The stories aren’t completely off the wall, though I certainly can’t imagine wanting a house that does everything for me. It’s hard enough to keep a regular house from falling down around your ears without the technology aspect. I am with you though, technology isolates us just as much as it brings about a sense of community. If we only communicate with our friends on Facebook or Twitter (but live in the same city) are we really friends? It is important to remember that real human relationships are important to cultivate, regardless of the convenience of technology.

  4. “Humanity is what keeps technology alive.” I agree. Technology goes to such crazy places and it is hard for me to see how technology can create new forms of itself without human input.

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Who’s in Control Here?

image

They walked down the hall of their soundproofed Happylife Home, which had cost them thirty thousand dollars installed, this house which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them. 

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury is the story of the Hadley family and their automatic home. Not a shoe gets tied, nor a piece of toast gets buttered without the help of their home. George and Lydia splurged to buy their children a nursery that changes into whatever they want it to be with one thought. It is used as a psychological tool for helping them deal with their anxieties. At present, the nursery is a hyper-realistic African Veldt complete with lions that smell and sound just like the real thing. The lions are just as intimidating as the real thing as well (though the emanating screams and the smell of blood don’t help with the overall vibe). After a few close calls with the nursery, George has a psychologist come and look at it. He tells them to immediately shut down the nursery and get their kids into therapy. George shuts the nursery down, but gives into his children’s whining for just a moment and lets them play in it while he gets changed to leave. The children then call their parents into the nursery and allow them to be eaten by the lions, so that their way of life wouldn’t change.

Bradbury’s story can be seen as a cautionary tale of how letting technology take on a pseudo-parenting role in a child’s life can be detrimental to an entire family. Perhaps if George had put his foot down that one last time and refused to let the children back into the nursery, they might have survived. Regardless, something deeper is going on here. This is a family who has allowed their lives to be completely taken over by technology. Their children’s lack of real parenting is just an extension of having a house that is capable of doing everything for them. If their house can take care of it, why shouldn’t they let it? They have not only lost control of their children, but they have lost control of their own lives and rendered themselves impotent, in effect. The important thing here is, they have control over technology they just choose not to employ it.

Bradbury seems to further introduce this idea in his short story “There Will Come Soft Rains”. It is the post-apocalyptic story of a (mostly) empty house in a neighborhood in ashes. The house is fully automatic, and goes through the routine of the day even without any humans inside. It lists off bills to be paid, makes pancakes, and tiny little robotic mice even come out to clean:

Out of warrens in the wall, tiny robot mice darted. The rooms were a crawl with the small cleaning animals, all rubber and metal. They thudded against chairs, whirling their mustached runner, kneading the rug nap, sucking gently at hidden dust. They like mysterious invaders, they popped into their burrows. Their pink electric eyes faded. The house was clean.

As the day wears on, a dog covered in sores comes in through the dog door and dies. The house goes on with it’s routine for a bit, but then a tree limb breaks through the window setting off a chain reaction that ends with the house engulfed in flames. The story ends there. With no water left in it’s tanks after days of watering the lawn, etc. it has nothing to put the flames out with. The house dies.

The moral of the story is that even a fully automated, technology packed house needed humans in order to live. Humanity is what keeps technology alive. Computers wouldn’t go on if the entire population of the world was wiped out. We are in charge of, and even the purpose for technology.

We are in control and it’s time to start acting like it.

8 thoughts on “Who’s in Control Here?

  1. Megan, the following statement you made in your post really stood out to me: “The house dies” (in Soft Rains). This astute observation really sums up the essence of the story: an inanimate object actually experiences “death”. It’s almost as of the house has been given human abilities and thus suffers a human demise.

    • It seems as though the house is a character in the story, too, and goes out of its way to protect its children, like a parent who disagrees with the other’s parenting.

  2. Hi there! You noted something I noted about “The Veldt.” You said the parents “rendered themselves impotent.” I wrote “self-rendered obsolescence” in the margin. I think this is a sci-fi theme that is becoming more and more relevant today. It is sort of crazy to look at the way we have engineered this dependence by making it sexy a la Apple, eg. There seems to be an emerging social awareness of this irony happening these days.

    • I would agree that it seems like we are at least aware of our own self-absorption (which is really all a strong attachment to social media is). It seems like more and more people are discussing “how much is too much?” when it comes to technology, and also “what is the price?” Being self-aware enough to ask the questions is half of the battle.

  3. Your indeed correct when you say that “they have control over technology, they just choose not to employ it.” Its easy to become engrossed in it, causing ourself to become lazy. For example, instead of calling someone you text or message them to avoid having to spend that time on the phone. The sad part of these stories is that they don’t sound outlandish; we could very well end up this way.

    • The stories aren’t completely off the wall, though I certainly can’t imagine wanting a house that does everything for me. It’s hard enough to keep a regular house from falling down around your ears without the technology aspect. I am with you though, technology isolates us just as much as it brings about a sense of community. If we only communicate with our friends on Facebook or Twitter (but live in the same city) are we really friends? It is important to remember that real human relationships are important to cultivate, regardless of the convenience of technology.

  4. “Humanity is what keeps technology alive.” I agree. Technology goes to such crazy places and it is hard for me to see how technology can create new forms of itself without human input.

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