Even when things go wrong, the world is an amazing place

A brief meditation on perspective when things go wrong, in that so much that we don’t notice continues to be not only right, but amazing.

My laptop died this past week. I was already planning on upgrading, as I knew it was running on borrowed time, but for various reasons related to timing I was hoping to push it off for a few more months.

Everyone who’s an adult has had a technology fail at some point. it’s just a part of life these days. A hard drive fail. A stolen phone. Malware. Something that worked yesterday that just doesn’t work today.

(And even if you haven’t had a computer-type device fail on you, you’ve certainly had a car problem.)

When a piece of hardware dies and needs to be replaced, there are a couple of emotional reactions:

  • There’s the distress and helplessness that comes along with something you rely on no longer being reliable.
  • There’s the fear around the money that needs to be spent to repair or replace said hardware.
  • There’s the time suck. “This is going to take forever.
  • Not to mention the terror that comes with things gone or lost forever (even though we all know to back up).

I experienced all of these things, with the exception of the money part. Needing to buy a new laptop, or repair an existing one, fits my personal definition of what an emergency is, and I’ve worked hard over the years to build up an emergency fund to use in these specific situations.

But the time, and the hassle, and the feeling of betrayal were still there.

Nevertheless, while going through the process of getting my technical life back in order, I was struck by an incongruous feeling: that the world really is an amazing place.

Information flows

I was able to recover my hard drive. I purchased an external USB enclosure, opened up my laptop and took my hard drive out, a little gum stick thing that somehow contained 512GB of data.

It mounted on a separate laptop, all my data just right there.

I started copying everything, desktop, documents, user profile, stuff I wasn’t sure if I needed or not, but just to be sure.

And as I watched this copy happen, holding my breath the whole time, I noticed the speeds and the sheer amount of data move from one little gumstick to another.

I was getting speeds of 100MB per second.

That’s a hundred million bytes of data, streaming over this little cable, from one gum stick to another, every second.

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No errors. No problems. No complaints. Everything worked flawlessly. Amazing.


Products move across the world

My laptop was very out of warranty. So, with the dreaded amber-and-white light blinking the pattern that said “your CPU is dead”, if anyone was going to quickly swap out the laptop motherboard, it was going to be me.

I found a replacement motherboard on eBay, contacted the seller, and asked how quickly he could get it to me. He quoted me a price that made me gulp, but he said that he could get it to me next day. I said to hang the expense, and went for it.

Less than 24 hours later, the man from FedEx delivered a replacement motherboard to my door. From 2,000 miles away.

I know we’ve all been dealing with “supply chain issues” for a long time now. That’s the reason why cars are so expensive, and why the thing that you want to buy is most likely back-ordered for months.

And yet, I was able to find an esoteric replacement part for a seven year old laptop, source it from across the country, and get it shipped to my door in less than 24 hours. Amazing.

Double wow.

So much actually works

Many things in this world are broken. Healthcare, social safety nets, getting a human on the phone in less than an hour of hold time.

And yet, some things work so well that we don’t even notice them.

Think about how much of our society actually functions purely based on people’s desire to live within the lines allotted to them. How many cars don’t drive across the median? How many people don’t get robbed or attacked? How many people just show up to work even when they could just not?

I know it’s not true all over the world, but it’s probably true where you’re reading this: Your power doesn’t go out capriciously. You have access to clean water. The ground doesn’t cave in under your feet.

And for the previous 2,200 days, my laptop booted just fine.

For everything that doesn’t work that should, there are many more aspects of this world that do work, even when it seems like they shouldn’t. It’s something to keep in mind.

And that’s why, as I possess a newly working laptop, all I can say is one word: amazing.

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