photo © amy sly

The McElroy Brothers: On The Mayan Apocalypse and Endless Shrimp. 

Is technology a force for good or for evil?

Griffin: Technology changes every day, and so does the answer to that question. Guns are a kind of technology, and those are usually pretty bad. But I can buy movie tickets on my phone, which is good. The Large Hadron Collider is definitely, definitely going to bring about the Mayan Apocalypse, which I don’t fancy. However, the Game Boy Advance made me happier than any one thing or person ever has, or ever will again. Once, a person on the internet said my neck was thicker than normal, and I was sad for four days. On the other hand, machines make medicine, which nearly cancels that last point out.

Justin: I think what Griffin has stumbled onto here is that we need good technology to cancel out the bad technology. Sometimes technology can be isolating, creating virtual embryos that detach us from society. In those times, it’s lucky we have social networking to reconnect with friends and loved ones. Other times, technology can become sentient and gain the ability to look like Robert Patrick as it ruthlessly hunts humanity’s future savior. In those moments, I feel really grateful for the slightly less advanced cyborg assassins that we can reprogram to protect us.

Still, in other moments, technology like the Internet Movie Database can confirm your fear that you might have lifted the plot of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in your American Dreamers essay. Technology doesn’t have a fix for this that I’ve found so thanks for nothing Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Travis: If by technology, you mean the breakfast machine at the beginning of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, then it’s a force for good and breakfast. If you mean the app on Justin’s iPhone that emits a high pitched squeal like a dog whistle, then it’s a force for evil. That said, I could not live without my phone. Or my dialysis machine. Unless ... is there an iPhone app to remove waste from my blood? If, while cleaning my body of impurities, my phone could automatically update my twitter feed that would be cool.

Honesty time: I don’t use a dialysis machine. I’m not even 100% sure what it looks like, but I assume it looks like Pee-Wee’s breakfast machine.

If you could change one thing and make the world a better place, what would it be?

Travis: I think that we are living in a "blame culture,” where everything someone does can be blamed on some factor outside of their control making it not their fault. If people don't take responsibility for themselves, how can they improve their own situations? I would change that. If that's too unrealistic, it'd be pretty cool if we could make Endless Shrimp at Red Lobster a year round thing instead of seasonal. I mean, its supposed to be ENDLESS, right?!

Griffin: Teleportation. Then, we’d all just be citizens of the world, instead of citizens of countries and warring states, because there’s really nothing you can do to stop anyone from going wherever they want. Yes, this would cause issues vis a vis banking, and preschool security, or any and all security in general, forever, and the more I think about it, the worse an idea it becomes. Maybe just I could have teleportation? I promise not to misuse it. Have you guys seen that film, Jumper? It’s my favorite Hayden Christensen movie.

Justin: I was going to say that I would change Travis’ insatiable desire for buttered shrimp that will almost certainly lead to his untimely death, but I decided that’s a little small-scale. If you’re reading this, Travis (or, let’s be realistic, Travis’ grief-stricken widow), I just want to say that I’m really sorry that I didn’t use my one wish to cure your shrimp addiction. I hope the shrimp is always endless in heaven, and I hope they have more varieties up there, as the choices always seemed a little limited to me. I mean, just scampi, coconut and traditional? How am I supposed to —

Wait, that’s it! That’s my answer! More Endless Shrimp varieties. That’s going to make a difference. Moreover, it’s what sweet, dead Travis would have wanted.

Travis: If it is my fate to die by overwhelming flavor, then so be it! I take responsibilities for my own snack-tions! Also, I am very sad that I will be dead in the future.

This excerpt is from American Dreamers, available now at Sharp Stuff.

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