I can’t keep up with what is happening, and I don’t know if I want to. The other day my Gorham friend, Frank McDermott, sat on my couch and, as we chatted, he kept looking at his watch. You know what it means when someone taps their foot or keeps looking at their watch. They are looking for an excuse to leave. If you are speaking before a large audience and see people doing it, you know that you’ve talked too long and had better wind it up.

Because I’ve known Frank for close to 60 years, I didn’t hesitate to ask why his watch was so interesting. Well, while we were talking, his watch was telling him all kinds of interesting things. It could do almost anything but make horseshoes. And if he jiggled it a certain way he could probably turn on his forge and even do that. It would start his washing machine and turn on the air conditioning or furnace in his home 100 miles away. He could look into his living room and see if the cat had kept his promise to stay off the couch.

We are talking here about a device that makes Dick Tracy’s magic two-way wrist radio look like a ducking stool in Salem. Not only would it tell you how far you had walked that day, but it also checked your pulse and gave you the percentage of oxygen in your blood.

Frank started to tell me how it would give him an electrocardiogram (or EKG), which recorded the electrical signal in his heart to check for heart conditions.

Fortunately, at that point our conversation went off on a tangent about the possibility of AI replacing school superintendents, because I had already ingested enough science for one day.

Please don’t assume from this that I never waved my hand in front of an electronic towel dispenser in a hospital restroom. I have, and I wipe my hands on my shirt when they don’t work.


Marsha and I are addicted to our “Hey Google” machine, which tells me when it is time for my pills, when the wash is done and when to take the sweet breads out of the oven. It gives us a weather report and the capital of Uzbekistan when Marsha is doing a word puzzle.

My friend Duane suggests that we could teach it to turn the lights off and on and open the garage door. All these things have been around for years, so I now take them for granted. But I’m still puzzled by drones that can snoop on your neighbors, or cars that drive themselves.

I hear that some new cars dim the lights when there is an oncoming vehicle and brake for you if you are in danger of crashing. It will nudge you back into the center of your lane if you get too close to the edges. Some cars will take you anywhere you want while you read a book.

Science has its limitations, for it will not tell you where you can go to escape multiple notices to renew the warranty on your car. And, on very rare occasions, gremlins seize control of cars. Brakes become inoperable and the cars crash. So there are times when you would be safer in a Model A, which has no mysterious computer chips.

There is talk that doorbells could soon use facial recognition to compare the face on your doorstep with the FBI criminal database. Is this good or bad? We read that there are six people on Earth who look exactly like you. So you might be locked up for something you didn’t do. On the other hand, when a thief heads home with a package he got on your doorstep, the FBI can be there waiting for him.

I have little hope that even AI will make things better. It was whispered last winter that three of the town snowplows broke down. Fifty years ago you could have thrown in a new set of points, replaced a shear pin or taped up a bare wire. But these three trucks each needed a computer chip that had to be shipped from China.

Yesterday a storm window technician measured the size of our two north windows with a laser. Today he called and said that his device failed and asked if he could measure it again.

I didn’t tell him that I have my father’s old tape measure and could save him a trip.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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