Trapped in the Drone Zone

Go ahead, run as fast as you can. There’s no escaping the attack of the gadgets.

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So Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced that the online retailer hopes to deliver small packages by drone helicopter within five years. It seems like mere microseconds ago that drones were the stuff of distant dystopian wars we ignore. But apparently there had already been widespread discussion of Dominos delivering by drone, confirming the dystopian part, but somehow I hadn’t heard about that.

When I heard about Amazon delivery drones, my first thought was: People will definitely steal or damage the drone. Note my faith in humanity. I’m a realist. And I frankly think the Second Amendment was made precisely for moments in history just like this that call for revolt. I may personally take to shooting them out of the sky, because the skies are made for birds and daydreaming and the occasional airplane, not an infestation by the mosquitoes of commerce. Will it ever stop? Maybe Amazon drones will be hunted like geese and mounted on the wall. Or maybe they’ll be equipped to self-destruct upon being intercepted, or turn into heat-seeking missiles if fired upon. Very little time will tell.

Anyway. Assume you order an urgent—an urgent what? What could you possibly need from Amazon so urgently it must arrive in 30 minutes or less by remote-controlled aircraft? Among today’s best-sellers on Amazon is the FancyG® Elegant 3D Luxury High Quality Bling Fairy Tale Flowers Purple Hearts Back Cover Case For Samsung Galaxy S3 9300 for $14.99. So you order an urgent Fancy Elegant Luxury High Quality Bling Fairy Tale cellphone case, and because it’s an emergency OMG!!!!! and you are among the most ridiculously indulgent population since ever, you pay for it to be delivered remotely. It dodges rocks flung from backyards and gangs of anti-corporate drones, and it lands at your door. Yay! So what have we, as a society, achieved here?


Progress like this: I was driving into Las Vegas recently from the suburbs in a giant rental car because my faithful old Civic had a limp. My rental was an upgrade I didn’t ask for, and in addition to having a push-button start, it had numerous other features I didn’t ask for, including a miles-to-go-before-you’re-empty countdown, and a constant digital compass direction in the corner of the rearview mirror: I was heading SE, unless, of course, the SE was referring to the view in the mirror, in which case I was heading NW. It doesn’t matter, because at first, it just said E, and I thought that meant that my tank was empty: E. Seconds later I saw that I had 148 miles worth of fuel to go—all that worrying for nothing, good thing my ultra-smart car cleared that up, thank God for technology, etc.

So with the click of a few more steering-wheel buttons, I adjusted the temperature on the driver’s side of the car and the angle of the seat under my ass and proceeded to travel SE. It was all very heady, as these are very heady times, times in which there are a cornucopia of ingenious inventions meant to ease the work of your head or the patience demanded of your character or the dexterity exhausted by moving your arm or scootching your butt. Or something.

I remember the first smartphone I got a few years ago. I bought it at a meatspace retail store (meatspace being the non-virtual world, which I learned from a gamer), and I drove off in that old-school, key-start car whose passenger and driver seats were stuck in the same general climate zone. Ugh! I got home and powered up the new phone.

And that’s it. That’s the last actual memory I have of anything at all, as since then, my life has been neatly contained in the boundaries of the semi-actual; somewhere online and connected virtually at all times except sleep, which produces dreams of oddly un-technical adventures such as running as fast as I can to get away from something looming and out of control and overbearing.

Then my cellphone wakes me with one of 43 alarm melodies. Two-thirds of the melodies are digital representations of the sounds of nature: “Gentle Spring Rain,” “A Rustling in the Trees,” “Crickets.” The rest are generic beeps and chimes, except for a few, which are given the names of a scene from nature that actually has no commonly known noise, such as “Rays of the Sun” or “Rainbow,” but sound just like the beeps or chimes.

Mine is set to “Flying in the Sky,” which as of yet does not sound like I imagine a drone’s motor would, nor a broadcast commercial for Amazon—OMG, are those things going to blast ads? The marketing potential. Is. Endless.