Study Guide

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Samantha 2

By Maria Semple

Samantha 2

Afraid of Facebook listening in on your smartphone mic? Worried about the NSA reading your texts? Just wait 'til you get your hands on Samantha 2. Or, rather, when it gets its hand on you.

Sam and Her Big Bro

Samantha 2 is a revolutionary device from Microsoft that plugs directly into your brain. Simply strap a Band-Aid-looking thing to the back of your head and you'll be directly connected to the internet, able to control your television, lights, and email just by thinking. It's this project that brings Elgin and fam to Seattle, and it's this project that launches him to minor fame after the TEDTalk announcing it goes viral.

If you're like us, however, then the idea is a little freaky. A computer that plugs into your brain? It's very Black Mirror. We'll give it a year before they start pumping ads into our dreams. Bernadette seems to be on the same wavelength, frequently comparing Microsoft to "Big Brother" of 1984 fame, alluding to the frightening surveillance implications of such a powerful device (1.140).

Press X to See Your Life's Work Go Up In Flames

That being said, it's not like there's no value in Samantha 2. One of Elgin's biggest drives for the project is a partnership with Walter Reed to "help our wounded veterans live independent and productive lives" (3.216). In this light, Samantha 2 can be seen as a medical revolution, a device that could change the lives of the countless people dealing with disabilities and other conditions.

In the end, none of this matters because Samantha 2 gets canned. Well, it's not being canceled entirely, but instead is "folding [..] into games" with the Xbox division, taking what might have been a medical revolution and turning it into a fancy way of playing Minecraft (6.33). This becomes a fitting bit of commentary on its own, poking fun at the need of corporations to turn a profit at all costs, even if it means doing something trivial with revolutionary technology.

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