Your Life, Preserved in a Chip in Your Heel
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
As we depend more and more on new technologies, we face new vulnerabilities. Just ask commentator Andrei Codrescu, who's been thinking about his relationship with his laptop.
ANDREI CODRESCU: People have always carried their valuables in a bag, the loss of which is devastating. But never had we a bag so capacious, so total and so revealing as our laptop, and never had a bag so easily detachable a core. In there is our memory, our links to the world, the history of our relationships and the official record of our lives. Even our feelings, to the extent that it can be articulated, adding the chip that lives in the laptop. The only thing not in the chip is the meat, but even that maybe only apparent.
For now, though, the theft of the chip is nearly as fatal a blow as a whack from a halibard. The ancestor of the laptop was the paper notebook, but its loss - while devastating - was not quite fatal. I lost two notebooks in my life, and I convalesced for a year after the first one and for six months after the second. After losing the first at 16, I thought I'd never write again. After the second, I thought that I might, but that I'll be a monk tied to the desk in my scriptorum.
I forgot the notebooks when I emptied myself into the laptop. The only difference between Achilles and myself is that his vulnerability was his alone, while mine is everybody's. What I mean is that if somebody attacks my chip, I can attack theirs. No one is exempt from this Achilles' heel. The greatest dread of our secret agencies and research labs is the theft of laptops. When computers were big, they were harder to steal.
Now even a cockroach, if properly trained, can drag a super secret chip from a carelessly placed laptop. In fact, the cockroach may be a chip itself, a nanobot thief. In order to secure our chips, we'll have no choice in the end but to imbed them in our bodies. The preferred insertion point so far is the neck and the wrist.
But for reasons of mythic beauty, I'd suggest the heel. This return to original vulnerability may not abolish history as one might be tempted to think, but it may prove that time itself did not pass. Achilles's heel may have had a chip in it in the first place, and that hero, like all heroes, was a laptop.
SIEGEL: Andrei Codrescu teaches English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.