The Button

by G. W. Thomas © 2001

He wanted to push the button. His finger caressed the large round switch with its tantalizing smoothness. Just push it. Press down and …

His name was Meath. He was a professor of Technological Anthropology. He had never seen the inside of a classroom. He was an inventor. Like those large-jawed specimens in the Great Hall, he sought ways to create what had never been before.

Homo habilis scratching in the African dirt with a stick, picking up a stone that one day would be an ax. The Human race had taken a million years to come up with that first tool. Fourteen thousand life times, just for a stick.

But the inventing habit became easier. After a few more thousand years, another fourteen hundred lifetimes, the next innovation: a fire-hardened tip, a stone lashed to the end of the stick.

The blind, worm-inching pace had ground on until the first farmers came, domesticated the wheat, the cow, the dog. Then the city-builders. Technology was rushing onward at a dizzying pace. Compared with the early hunters, a man might see change every few generations. A new tool, a new way of doing things.

All leading to the last century of Twentieth Century, when technology literally burst the world wide open. No longer changes by the generations, everyday something new, something better. Some were alarmed. Said our technology had outstripped us, but still the pace grew faster and faster. The computer bought on Day One was already a relic by Day Two. The consumer rushed madly about to up-grade, improve. From thousands of years to mere seconds, technology had been borne on Mankind’s shoulders to—

The button. All he had to do was press it down. No more rushing to keep up. No more obsolescence. No more Version 2.0. Just the button.

He pushed down in a slow, gut-squeezing way. The button decompressed beneath his finger and a light went on. It was too late to turn back now.

Self-Actualizing Technology-- S. A. T. he called it.

“Please identify yourself,” the computer said from nowhere in particular.

“I am the user,” he sighed.

“Inefficient,” declared the machine. “You shall be replaced.”

x x x

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