In the past few days you may have seen a photo making the rounds on social media that shows a carved stone relief dating back to ancient Greece along with the word "laptop" displayed prominently in the headline.
The relief shows a woman lounging in an armchair, her right arm stretched out toward a shallow box with its lid open. The box is held up by a young girl the Getty Museum describes as a servant. What else looks like a shallow box with its lid open? A laptop, of course! It doesn't take much imagination to see the coincidence. Oh, how I wish it were true.
This isn't the first time the ancient "laptop" has emerged on the Internet. It made the rounds in 2014. The current revival is due to an article in the UK's Daily Mail that gives voice to "conspiracy theorist" beliefs that it depicts a piece of modern technology. That's all it takes to spark a fresh round of social-media shares.
I subscribe to the Getty's explanation that the object shows a shallow chest. "The depiction of the deceased reaching out for an item held by a servant has a long history in Greek funerary art and probably alludes to the hope of continuing earthly pleasures in the afterlife," the museum writes. The relief is part of the Getty's collection but isn't currently on view.
There's a part of me that would love to run wild with the conspiracy theorists, to throw logic to the capricious winds and jump in with ideas of time travel and aliens and modern technology invading the past. If this really were a laptop, then all bets are off: "Doctor Who" is real, history would be rewritten, and I would legally change my name to Fox Mulder.
There will always be people who are quick to see ancient gods on Mars and portable computers in ancient Greece. I might be in the habit of raining logic and science on their conclusions, but I'm also kind of glad they're out there. It's a testament to human imagination and dedication to take a crazy-sounding concept and run with it against the force of reason. It's still not a laptop, though.
The Getty Museum social-media staff seems to be keeping a sense of humor about the statue's notoriety. "This is what happens when time travelers don't cover their tracks thoroughly enough," said a Facebook fan on the museum's page. "Learn from Doc Brown, people!"
"So true, so true," the Getty responded.