Monday, 2 September 2013
Technology. It’s all around us and has been for centuries. The second the drooling man-ape picked up a rock we created technology. Once that damned wheel got invented it was the end of a peaceful existence for mankind. By the time the term ‘engineer’ was coined it was all beginning to get out of control and now it’s just gone too far! We have machines that make decisions, for heaven’s sake, something that the majority of humans are incapable of ever achieving with any degree of success. But it’s worse than that:
Take the smart phone. I’ve hated telephones since the days of Button A and Button B, when you had to recognise an incorporeal voice in seconds and make the appropriate choice. (I usually pressed B, got my pennies back and left the call box to walk around the block, getting my nerves up for another attempt. It’s not natural, I tell you.) I’ve had a mobile phone since the early nineties, although I hardly ever use it; I don’t like phones, remember?
Then, like a sheep, a couple of years ago I finally succumbed to the lure of the smart phone, but I’m beginning to wonder why. The marketeers tell you that you can control empires from its shiny screen, that it enhances your life immeasurably and makes the most lukewarm geek suddenly icy cool. Everybody’s best friend (well, second-best) is now a nerd, apparently. But I have no such nerd-counsel and I find myself staring at the thing, wondering what it is.
This all started when I was persuaded – against my better judgement – to download a keyboard app that my interlocutors were telling me would revolutionise my life. “But why?” I asked, “What will it do that the standard keyboard won’t do?” It’s just SO much better, they told me. Do it. An hour it took me and that was just to get the thing found, downloaded and installed. An hour I will never see again, after which said app proved to be an absolute horror; another thing to learn, for which I had no need. Which brings me to my thesis; how does any of this enhance my life?
I’m typing this piece on a full-sized keyboard while sitting in a comfortable chair at a desk. In front of me is a big screen at a convenient focussing distance and I have a mouse so I can quickly go back and correct that typo in the last paragraph. I can read almost a full A4 page in one view and I can freely cut and paste, spellcheck and look up words on any one of the dozen or so browser pages I also have open, courtesy of my fast broadband connection. Meantime I’m dipping into Twitter, listening to an internet radio station and checking my bank account. Why would I want to do any of that on a tiny fingerprint covered screen, squinting to see it in daylight and forever losing a data signal?
But, you can organise your whole life with a smartphone, they wail, practically rending their garments at what they see as my extreme Ludditity. You can keep everything on the cloud and never lose anything ever again; there is nothing, they say, that you can’t do on a smart phone. My response is, yes, maybe I can… but I don’t WANT to. I have books and a Kindle for reading, an iPod for music and both of them have a battery life of, effectively, forever. I have a computer for internet access and full-scale software applications and I have a television for, you know, watching television.
As for ‘organising my life’ I have an infallible way of keeping track of my activities past, present and future; it has random, high-speed access, multiple processing levels and is fully integrateable with all my other functions… it’s called a brain and it’s never switched off, never needs rebooting, needs no batteries and I already know how to use it. When that packs in I don’t believe even the most advanced smart phone will come close to replacing it.
I don’t even use my smart phone as a phone. For that I have a handy Nokia, which fits neatly and inconspicuously in my pocket and like my other dedicated tools has a battery life of several days. So, now the smartphone is out of contract, I guess I can cancel; I just don’t need it.
Not so smart now...
Before you mount an intervention consider this: If you put all your faith in technology where does that leave you when the lights go out? And if you still think it’s all sexy and ‘da bomb’ just remember that ‘they’ know where you are at all times, can check out your every interaction with the world and if the EU gets its way will soon be able to take control of your car automatically. How much longer before the machines take control of you altogether… like they have your kids? (Cue spooky music)