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In the hot, summer sun, the locals sauntered through their daily rounds and thought of ways to escape the rigors of the city's unbearable humidity. Most resigned themselves to a less active lifestyle, lounging away hour after hour in some cool shelter. For Matt, Tim, and Greg, Albert's continued to be the same potential portal to new realms as it was in all seasons.

However, one of the highlights of any summer excursion to Albert's was the fresh lemonade that cooled and sedated them. The stifling heat provided a glaring backdrop and contrast to the gentle yet perky cold lemon drink. The tall, plastic semi-translucent cups that held their milk or juice during the rest of the year were suddenly transformed into majestic chalices brimming with liquid salvation. They became supplicants of Albert's lemon manna. It was the one refreshment that could not be rushed, and, perhaps for this reason alone, it fit the tempo of the lazy days of summer at Albert's.

The restaurant did not have functional air-conditioning. There was a machine, though, fitted into a window near the ceiling that groaned and squeaked through the afternoons. But, it had long since been clogged with the vapors of grease that emanated from the grill and flowed out any opening that presented itself. To combat the heat, Jack and Clarence set up an intricate system of fans, and usually, Clarence would position himself in front of one of them and smirk happily and playfully.

The heat, however, could not stop Albert. Albert believed that the heat was just another reason for his customers to eat fast and be on their way. He would rasp at any unsuspecting soul, berating them with comments that he thought would make them promptly pay their check so new customers could sit down: "You have air-conditioning in your house, don't you? Well, you should go back there, it's too hot for you in here. How are you going to stay cool in here, huh? You should go back to your home and enjoy that air-conditioning. It's too hot in here." And he would continue until whomever was listening finally agreed and pushed along.

As always, Albert's antics and sweaty pestering never bothered Matt, Tim, or Greg; his hot-blooded agitation merely added some welcome comic relief and slightly inane theatrics. They often became enamored with their tall glasses of lemonade and sat quietly as if in a transcendental reverie, escaping the high temperatures and heavy air. Yet Albert would never allow them more than a few moments respite from his capricious and self-righteous brow-beating.

"Oh, you guys, again!. Hey, Jack, how can we get rid of these guys?! Look at them now! They're just sitting there like a bunch of lazy dogs!" Albert bellowed as he interrupted their silent, gradual sipping of the icy lemonade. "You should be out there working and doing some thinking with your heads," he moaned hovering over their table and breathing heavily and impatiently.

"But, Albert," Greg replied, "computers do all the thinking for everybody now-a-days. The only thing we can use our brains for is to figure out how we got into to this mess," Greg sighed as he looked up at Albert for some kind of a response.

"You guys! You've always got a reason to not work! You're all crazy and you'd better get your heads looked at," finished Albert as he turned away and looked for his next prey.

Suddenly, the three of them looked at each other and realized that Albert's harangue had energized them and sparked their collective thoughts.

"I am struck daily by the impact that technology has on all of our lives and the ongoing transformation that is occurring right before our eyes as we integrate the computer into nearly every facet of society," began Matt. "The general pattern is a process of reducing human physical action and increasing our interaction with mechanical and technological devices."

"With the advent of each successive epoch of human activity, whether industrial, technological, or informational in content, the resultant changes have gradually lessened the scope of tangible action and simultaneously broadened the range of intangible action. There has been a consistent shift from human work done in the three-dimensional corporeal plane to work completed in the virtually non-dimensional electronic realm. Whether we are demonstrably more cerebral or not is less important than the fact that we are less physical, and our technology has become an intermediary which affects tangible action and bridges the gap between our minds and the natural earth."

"Quite obviously, we are gradually separating ourselves from the physical plane and making the procedure of work an intellectual function through an abstract medium. Our technologically accessible machines bear the burden of any necessary physical toil, and we, in essence, are able to complete actions through the processing of mental energy. If we were to predict the possible and most extreme outcomes of such a trend, it wouldn't be farfetched to imagine a time in which human action is eliminated and replaced by constant thought."

"Look at the development and potential advancement of language expression and dissemination, for example. When writing was initiated the process was very labor intensive in terms of preparing all the items required to eventually have words end up on a piece of paper. Printing presses were an advancement which increased volume, and subsequently, the typewriter enabled the individual to achieve a more efficacious level of free expression. Computer-based documents have empowered individuals as well as groups to complete an even more extensive variety of tasks. Voice-generated machines take the process a step further while simultaneously lessening the physical requirements of its users."

"The next logical step is clearly technology which responds to the internal thoughts of its user. Conceivably, humans will embed various apparatuses within their bodies in order to transmit their thoughts and in turn complete actions without moving or speaking. The overall result will be a paradoxical form of human life: an abstract realm from which tangible movement emanates."

"As we move away from an inveterate existence on the physical plane through a nearly total interactive and a partial corporeal integration with technology, we edge closer to entering a purely intangible and mental state of being. None of us would expend any physical energy yet we would still be functional human beings. In this scenario, our thoughts would become the focal point of our existence. Of course, we have always used our ability to think as a means to differentiate between ourselves and other creatures, yet when our thoughts can affect instantaneous action then we have crossed over into another sphere of existence. In this instance, physical reality is an objective entity and we reside in our own subjective reality exploring the endless possibilities."

"What had been an axiomatic perspective, namely that the physical limitations of the tangible world are the only restraints which prevent our imaginary realm from becoming our functional reality, is suddenly challenged as we transform our physical world with the power of technology. As our physical actions are eliminated through technological means, our conventional reality shifts into an abstract realm blurring the dichotomy between what had previously been real and imaginary, and, in essence, unifying the two parts. We become the personification of pure thought uninhibited by our physicality."

"One technological manifestation that allows our abstract world to be expressed without limitations is the device of electronic imagery. In this sphere, we can create a visual reality that defies all scientific laws and depicts every possible aspect of our imaginations. When we integrate this visual spectrum with mechanical apparatuses that connect our senses directly to this realm, the barriers between our notions of conventional reality and the abstract universe begin to dissolve as our powers of perception are altered and overwhelmed by the influence of technology. We begin to process intangible information as if it were tangible and react accordingly. Our emotions move in accordance to the electronic stimuli infused into our sensory portals by technological impulses."

"We have long employed tangible symbols to represent conceptual and factual meaning through our development and utilization of language and numbers. This process of physically constructing an entity to express an intangible idea has always required the establishment of logical assumptions which often evolve into axiomatic thought. This process has enabled us to develop theories and intellectual constructs in myriad forms. Yet, through this process, our minds have always controlled the magnitude and flow of information allowing for an implicit recognition of the divide between our tangible and intangible perceptions of reality."

"However, the introduction of technology removes the natural dimensional separation between our conception of the limitless and our rational axiomatic perception of reality because the totality of stimuli usurps our mental acquiescence to defining parameters. We begin a transformation of thought in which we gradually accept the intangible output of technology as a replacement for conventional perception. Soon even our entire physicality is linked and impelled by the electronic signals and messages," Matt finished as he reached for the last of his lemonade.

"Perhaps, in some cases, the process of replacing physicality with technology will lead to positive developments," Greg started. "Physical barriers that have limited people in the past will dissipate as technology becomes the basis and focal point for decision-making and the completion of actions. Those who were physically-challenged before will no longer have to endure or overcome explicit or implicit prejudice or scorn because there will be more emphasis put on intelligence and creativity and less on physical markings and status. External appearance will become less important than inner mental fortitude and expansiveness. When all of us interact through the medium of technology, the exchange of information will be free of the confrontational and destructive aspects of the human character."

"In such an environment, there is the potential for societies to become more objective internally as well as globally. Political conflict and personal prejudices would be relatively meaningless issues when subjective perspectives are filtered out by the problem-solving and dispassionate mechanics of technology. The technology would act as a buffer zone and reduce friction as interaction could assume any form that increased the possibility for success. A virtual level of international conduct and communication could be established which would respond to and incorporate input from people of multiple backgrounds. Individualism and groupism would be able to merge their energies at a common point of ideological and intellectual construction. Objectivity would challenge the mental and physical spirits of everyone," Greg predicted as he looked down to what was now an empty glass.

"The crucial aspect of it all is how humans will be affected as they slowly withdraw from the physical world," Tim offered. "In other words, how humans will react to the gradual dissolution of the dichotomy that has existed between conventional reality and unlimited abstraction."

"When we complete a task without technology, for example, we utilize our own physicality or an implement which becomes a direct extension of our bodies because of the energy that we channel through it. However, with technology, we lose direct physical contact with an object and the energy that is required to achieve a particular purpose. The technology, then, through its work, creates distance between us and a given object and both the visible and invisible forces that affect and govern the status of that object."

"Through this process of distancing, we begin to cross over into the realm of the abstract as our own physicality is rendered irrelevant by the substitute entity of technology. Yet, ironically enough, as we start this transition away from a direct utilization of our own physicality to a preponderance of focus towards our mental capabilities, this is the first stage at which we can see that the supposed separation between the concrete and abstract is not so much of a division at all: the intangible forces that affect tangible objects link the physical and the abstract spheres together and seem to exist in the slipscreen between what we recognize as substantive and formless. Technology conveniently connects our sensory and cerebral centers to the tangible plane, bypassing the need for us to express direct actions and creating a virtual world of abstract mental deliberation and causation."

"There seem to be several steps that we must take before we have integrated with technology to the extent that we become completely removed from our own physicality. One aspect of the transformation is the decision to accept the validity of a specific technology as an implicit recognition of its conceptual yet rational existence. Most of this is done through the habitual use of technology which has attained a role as a defining and functional parameter of an organized society. For example, we no longer question the actuality of the voices that we hear through telecommunications, and we no longer ponder the veracity of the electronic images that we see through television - we accept them through their functionality."

"However, as the technology that provides us with sensory stimulation becomes more powerful and more fully integrated into our corporeal realm, the structure and contents of our faculties of discernment and perception will be impacted, and, more than likely, irrevocably altered. Perhaps we will reach a crossroads at which the decision will be between embracing a definition of reality based on a functional consensus or an unmitigated reception and acknowledgment of all forms of stimuli as being real. It will be as if we have taken our imaginations the first step towards true activation. Perhaps the label 'virtual' is a misnomer anyway given the promise of an eventual merging of active imagination with that which can be created technologically and therefore purposely activated."

"What are the repercussions of a reality, of a realm, in which we can, for all intents and purposes, activate our imaginations? How does this capability affect our notion and perception of what has up until now been our tangible reality? If I can attach myself or interact with some kind of technological apparatus in such a way that allows my sensory faculties to achieve a workable and practical state that is seemingly limitless, in other words a state in which I'm no longer restrained by the scientific and axiomatic laws which we have come to recognize as the defining limits of our tangible world, then what must that mean in terms of my need to reassess my understanding of existence in the conventional and shared realm that has led humans to this stage in their development?"

"Quite clearly, I think it's a step towards some kind of metamorphosis for humans. We can always try to rationalize by saying that humans will remain unchanged, and that it is only through the employment of certain mechanisms that we will be able to enter alternative realms. And yet the most telling response to such a stance is the consideration and further examination of what technology actually is and the relationship that we have with it. The two words that describe and best answer these queries are faith and narcissism"

"Surprisingly, the word faith hardly seems appropriate when we speak of technology because most of what we have accomplished in this field and the results we have seen so far appear to be based on our system of logic. None of us would want to try to refute many of the aspects of the remarkable systems of science and logic that have worked to wondrously and amazingly change our lives. Yet we have become so enamored with the magnitude of our technological accomplishments that we have concurrently engendered a calculated and slightly passionate faith in our power of efficacious methodology."

"Certainly this could be said about the majority of us who have little or no true understanding of the scientific principles which support the actual fruition of our technology. Instead of developing an understanding of how a certain technological apparatus works, for example, we merely use that technology based on the belief that it will produce the desired results. As the technology becomes more complicated yet simultaneously easier to use, we are in effect exercising a certain level of faith when we use it. We should neither disparage this type of faith nor the basic human tendency, yet any expression of belief without a commensurate level of understanding is an oblique dismissal of the underlying principles."

"In the same way, our faith crosses over into the area of results and effects: if we believe that certain technology will accomplish a given task without really understanding the process then it is easy to apply that same trust in the outcome. We often have emotional reactions to technological devices - yelling when we see something on television, for instance, or becoming excited when we are stimulated by an electronic game. When we become emotionally involved in the end-product of a technological contraption, we have exercised our powers of belief in the validity of the output of that apparatus. Our trust becomes so great that we fail to pause to question the nature of those results and we pass into an emotionally interactive state of mind."

"A certain balance of logic and intellectual faith has always been our basis for forming a conceptual and rational understanding of our functional reality. However, the mental processes of our minds are gradually being replaced with technology, and that technology has the power to alter our perceptions to the extent that we no longer are able nor desire to differentiate between functional reality and the abstract realm."

"Narcissism is the other aspect of our relationship with technology. The process of constructing mechanisms and technology which replicate and supersede certain human actions is the manifestation of a union between both the projection and reflection of the self."

"Every apparatus that is produced by humans is an entity which is separate from its creator. This separation can never be completely eliminated regardless of the extent to which we interact or integrate with a certain mechanism. That device, then, is an object which is a projection of our ideas and axiomatic faiths."

"However, as the divide between our technology and ourselves is reduced to the infinitesimal point at which they virtually merge, both physically through increased interaction and perceptually as our actions are replaced and we begin to exist in an unbalanced more abstract realm, this same projection of our mental selves, this object, this technological apparatus becomes an expression of reflective energy. A mechanical arm, for example, becomes both an entity which represents the sum total of various logical processes, and, as it replaces the functions of a natural arm, achieves an integration in the corporeal realm that intertwines it with the physical self to the extent that it becomes virtually real and a reflection of the self."

"This process is narcissistic in that we embrace the functionality of a certain form of technology based not only on a beneficial combination of our logic and faith which is affirmed by the efficacious quality of a particular apparatus, but also because our interaction with that object leads to a virtual inclusion of the manifestation of our ideas with our self. Our belief in our own abstract ideas has generated an evolutionary step and entrance into a further realm of abstractness based on a certain level of self-recognition which borders on self-love."

"Eventually, because the possibilities are apparently limitless, our bodily functions will become tantamount to irrelevant. Imagine how we'll be able to function without exerting ourselves physically: machines activated with our thoughts; substances that satisfy our appetites; and human interaction that is so diffused through the use of technology that it will dilute our emotional parameters. It really is a gradual distillation of the process of humans expressing their mental faculties - the one characteristic that allegedly separates us from other species. We will become physical entities which interface with apparatuses that respond to our every mental discharge. It's the overall process of creating a world and environment which is artificial to the point that we could very nearly rescind our original connection with the natural world," said Tim.

Their stomachs were full of lemonade and it was time to once again hit the street and battle the incessant heat. They all gave an unenthusiastic yet cheerful wave to Albert, Jack, and Clarence at the counter and braced themselves for the enervating temperatures.


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