"I'll never own an Alexa."
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Things just aren’t the way they used to be. At least they’re not for Don, the aging protagonist in this Old Globe-commissioned world-premiere play by JC Lee. Don can’t quite keep up with technology, or the workplace, or his daughter.

JC Lee's What You Are

The “things just aren’t what they used to be/back in my day” story is as old as culture. We’ve heard it before. However, for the first time ever, things really aren’t what they used to be.

We all remember Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption and how he thought, “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” Brooks was released in 1954 after serving a 50-year sentence. A lot had happened to speed things up over those 50 years, including the car, the airplane, the telephone, the radio, the television, the electrification of the entire country, etc.

The rate of change has continued to accelerate. The changes which occurred over decades now take place over years and months. It took the airline industry over 60 years to reach 50 million users. It took Facebook three years and it took Twitter two.

One might protest that that comparison is apples and oranges, and that protest would be true. The airline industry changed the way we traveled from one place to another. The current state of the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc, changed the way we interact with one another from moment to moment.

Don’s issue is that he is a plodder, and the workplace is quickly shedding plodders. Projects which previously took weeks and months now take days and hours if the worker has a grasp on technology.

A person such as Don might wish for a day when technology will slow down. It will not slow down. It will continue to accelerate. The internet is roughly 25 years old. Think back to Windows 95. That was the moment the internet became a thing. Do you recall the state of the internet in 1995?

Now say, “Alexa, play Mozart.”

We can feel for a character such as Don, up to a point. As Andy Dufresne said in Shawshank, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Get busy Googling how to be more productive or get busy retiring.

What about being a good person? Being a good person has nothing to do with technology. Quitting Facebook doesn’t make you a good person. There is a certain ring of piety in the voices of those who claim they will never own an Alexa. It’s false piety.

One might as well say, “I’ll never own a fireplace. Why would I bring fire into my home? I’m not trying to burn my house down.” Ok cave-dweller, good luck with resisting fire. By the way, you’re not allowed to complain when the people next door smelt bronze weapons and tools.

What You Are plays at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre through June 30.

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missurat June 6, 2019 @ 4:40 a.m.

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