For generations, people have suffered and sacrificed to find answers. A quest for truth. Climbing to mountain-high monasteries or crossing the Swamp of Sadness to search out all-knowing beings. Someone who can tell us why we’re here or how to find happiness. The human race has always been curious. Nothing has changed there. Except rather than asking Jesus Christ or Buddha or the giant turtle Morla, we’ve found a truth-teller that’s a lot more convenient. No longer must we devote months or years of our precious lives to a pilgrimage for information. Now, we tilt our heads to the sky, fill our lungs with air, and bellow – Hey Google!
And she appears. Alexa or Siri or the voice of Pamela Anderson – for an extra $9.99 – to alleviate your aching curiosity. You call her name, linked to an informal and somewhat rude ‘Hey,’ and she’s virtually next to you. A genie in a designer-approved bottle, ready to quench your knowledge-thirsty soul. What’s the theme song for the TV show One Day at a Time? How old is Jane Fonda? Gone are the days when we would debate something all night long with our friends. Betting money on what we think to be true, calling other friends, humming incorrect theme songs for hours, haunted by the real answer. We fixed that problem. I asked her some of the big, quest-worthy questions. Her reply? “Interesting question.”
So, where are we, really? What are we missing? We’re teaching the next generation that the answers to life’s questions are not only easy to come by, they’re dictated to us by a computer controlled by corporations. Controlled by money. Google has neglected to remind us that on our quest to find truth, the journey might be the destination. The journey might actually hold the answer we’re looking for. And so much more.
I do realise that some questions have a finite response. 11 points on a maple leaf. 24 ounces in a tall can of beer. 1,200 native fish species in Canada. This is what Siri told me. But, what if your kid asked you if there were different types of fish in Fernie, and rather than ask the machine, you packed up the family and drove to the Kootenay Trout Hatchery to find out? Along the way you talk about how fish get into the lake and why we have to add extra fish to certain areas and why Taylor Swift made such a radical change to her sound on her latest album. When you arrive at the hatchery, you have to go put your hand in the freezing Bull River, which gushes along the perimeter, because it’s Dad’s favourite river and it might bring him good luck with this year’s angling. Inside the building it smells like fish eggs and everyone scrunches their noses up and you walk past the large glass tanks and see baby White Sturgeon. They look pre-historic and they kind of are. The facility is helping to conserve the sturgeon because they’re red-listed, which means they are at risk of being lost. My girls think this is very sad. The sturgeon can grow to be twelve feet long and might be swimming below you in Kootenay Lake. We squeal at the thought. There are Kokanee Salmon and I feel thirsty. We go outside and look into a man-made stream full of huge trout. Some are acting like bullies so we discuss bullying and how the other fish should stand up for their friends or tell an adult fish. I tell my kids that sometimes even adults are bullies and this information doesn’t sit well with them. We discuss further. My youngest lies on her belly and reaches her hand into the fish-laden water and a large trout raises to the surface like a Russian submarine and bites her finger. It bleeds. The staff tells us the teeth are called hyoid teeth, located on the base of the tongue and used to trap and ‘test’ food before swallowing. We decide not to put our hands in the water anymore. All of this - the good, the bite, and the Taylor Swift - was part of our quest for the truth. Hey Google. Take the day off.