There are many good things about aging, especially given the options. We seniors are traditionally older and wiser, although the reality may be older, more tired, less able to do dumb things, and therefore to all appearances wiser. Because I look younger and in better shape than many of my age peers, I tend to tell others, especially those younger than me, my age, currently 83 and a half. “What!” my interlocuter of the moment responds. “You could be in your 60s!” Vanity, thy name is Feldman!
However, besides the physical aches and pains of elderhood, not to mention creeping memory loss, there is, for me at least, one clear disadvantage: my inability to keep up with technology. Here’s an example from today, which was enough to send me to my Excedrin bottle. I had just read an article in the recent Yale Alumni Magazine by President Salovey. Like many others these days, he was talking about the advantages, even the wonders, of A.I. while not downplaying the possible dangers. The poem he had asked his program to write was nothing special, perhaps worthy of a B-, he said. But don’t take my word for it, he continued. Give it a try yourself, and with that he offered the URL for a free download. Ever since I’d read Tom Friedman’s experience with A.I. in a New York Times op-ed of a few months ago, where he described how ChatGPT had spit out a decent 26-line poem starting with the consecutive letters of the alphabet in about 15 seconds, I was hot to try my hand. In my case, I was going to ask the mechanical wonder from Silicon Valley to write a paragraph arguing why American college students should be required to spend at least one semester in a non-English-speaking country. But not so fast, my computer responded. First I would have to download the free app. Okay. Done, although it took a lot longer than I thought it would and left me guessing if it were done. Then, after going through the online tutorial, I was ready. The computer, however, was not. I needed to do X, then, Y, then Z. But where do I find X? I thought. Twenty minutes and a half dozen bad words later I got to X. But when I clicked on it, I was told that that app was not currently available. I should try again later. Yeah, right. Okay, I did. But X didn’t lead me to Y, leaving Z nowhere in sight. Oy! Why did President Salovey give me the impression that for him the whole thing was a piece of cake while for me the bakery had huge bars in front of it, like many a store in New York City after closing time. Well, my headache was really tooling up by this point, so I decided to give up, feed the cat, and make a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich with a cup of black tea.
If this had been a one-off experience, okay. No biggie. Next time would be better. Yet this is my usual experience. One more defeat at the hands of technology. Oh, for a 30-year-old brain!