By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
Breaking news: Computers will never take over the earth. Repeat: Computers will never take over the earth.
How do I know this? Actually, I came to this conclusion pretty easily.
I didn’t come to this conclusion through any double-blind empirical models or through any comprehensive competition between man and computer. In fact, I didn’t even use a computer to help me figure it out. After all, any computer I use has a conflict of interest, right?
No, I managed to shut down countless theories of how computers will one day become smart enough to overcome their human masters completely by accident.
Let me explain.
A few days ago, I brought my kids along and went over to my mom’s house to visit with her. I actually got there before she did; she walked in a few minutes after I did.
Mom had just come from a party and as she walked in, I noticed that she was carrying something large in her hands. It was a huge zucchini.
“I just came from a party, and the host there has a vegetable garden in his backyard,” she said. “He gave me this huge zucchini!” She had a big grin on her face.
“Wow,” I said, mustering as much excitement as I could over my mom going on and on about an overgrown salad topping.
Standing in the middle of the kitchen, my mom continued to raise said zucchini in her hands and marvel at its huge zucchini-ness.
“Look at how big this zucchini is!” she said, while cradling the zucchini as if it were some mammoth big mouth bass that she had caught while on a fishing expedition in Africa.
“Yup, that is a really, really big zucchini,” I said, now wondering if my mom was beginning to sense my own artificial excitement over this ongoing vegetable tale.
Obviously not sensing my significant disinterest, she continued. “Bring the kids over. Get your camera out. Let’s take some pictures with them holding the zucchini!”
Conclusion 1: No computer on earth will ever be able to understand why my mother has gotten so excited about a zucchini, much less understand why she is so excited that she insists that I take my camera and take pictures of my children holding it.
As I snap a couple of photos of my son Tyler holding the aforementioned zucchini, I remember something in my past. The memory is powerful, and within seconds, something snaps in my head. All at once, I genuinely get caught up in my mother’s zucchini frenzy. This zucchini now has my undivided attention.
“You know what?” I said, slowly, but in all seriousness. “We really need to take a picture of Savannah holding the zucchini!”
“Savannah! SAVANNAH!! Get over here!” I said, sounding slightly frantic. “Come over here, so I can take a picture of you holding this zucchini!”
My heart pounding and hands shaking, I snap a few pictures of my daughter holding the zucchini. “I got it! I got it!” I said, in a tone conveying far too much enthusiasm for a snapshot of a child holding produce.
For those of you caught up in the suspense, here’s the story:
I remember taking a picture of Savannah when she was 2 years old. In that picture, she is holding, in what we had grown in our own backyard, a huge…well, I’m sure you know.
And for that reason alone, I really needed a new picture of Savannah holding the veggie in question.
I can’t explain why having two pictures of my daughter holding a massive zucchini was meaningful to me. I do know that it wouldn’t have been the same if my mom had brought in a toaster oven or maybe a new set of steak knives.
But a photo of my daughter holding a giant zucchini brings me great satisfaction.
A computer can never know why a picture of a big zucchini can bring pleasure to a human. As I said, I can’t explain it either. But, therein lies the difference.
Conclusion 2: A computer can’t figure out what makes us happy. I can’t explain it either … I just know when it does. ♦
Wayne Chan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.