Technology Future-Shock

Ramsey Dukes

I hear that television companies are gearing up to produce more programmes specifically designed for very young children.

Why?

Because the youngest children are spending more and more time in front of the television.

Why is that?

Because their parents are increasingly fearful of the dangers involved in letting their children out - dangers of kidnap, drugs, child molestation etc etc.

What makes parents think it is so dangerous?

Because they hear it on television...

Geddit?

Elsewhere I have suggested that very complex dynamical systems can evoke a measure of conscious intelligence, and that the most primitive need for such intelligence is usually to ensure its continued existence by any possible means.

The television industry is a sufficiently complex entity to have developed such rudimentary intelligence and, as the example suggests, it is doing what is necessary to propogate itself and evolve from diversion to necessity - even if it has to distort our worldview in order to do so.

Among the many ludicrous myths put about by technologies in their struggle for survival there is the following.

Information technology is creating absolutely unbelievable new possibilities for instantaneous communication, information retrieval and processing. The problem is that most people are too rigid in their thinking to grasp this incredible opportunity. The real hope lies with the next generation, because only children seem able to cope with this explosion in human potential.

What a load of old cobblers! The reason that most people resist computerisation and networked communications is not because it is so mind boggling but because it is such absolute and utterly useless crap. The fact that children (who know no better) can tolerate such rubbish, is wide open to alternative interpretations. For years I worked as a copywriter on brochures selling network technology. Every company I wrote for insisted that I begin by explaining at length just what an advantage it would be for any organisation to be able to link its teams together "at a keystroke", and then go on to reveal that this miracle is now at last within our reach. That was despite all my attempts to explain that any businessman already knows such an intuitively obvious fact, and all they really want to be told is why the computer industry was so gormless as to create computers which could not be linked in the first place. The credibility gap derived from the IT industry's staggering ineptitude, not from their incredible technology (which, in any case, never could and still cannot connect people at a keystroke).

I have seen pictures of tomorrow's cities' in pre-war books: in them no-one travels by car, they all appear to fly to work in automatic autogyros or commute in electric monorail trains. Come the 1950s it was clear that the transport industry had let us down. It failed to deliver this desirable scenario.

In the 50s, meanwhile, we grew out of that dream and turned to Dan Dare in the Eagle comic strip who could speak to his wrist TV and be in immediate contact with any of his crew, anywhere. Far from gasping with incredulity at such mind boggling communications we grew up believing that instant walkie talkie video communications were coming any day. Forty years on we are still waiting. The IT industry has failed to deliver just as the aircraft industry did, and it is now generating these ludicrous myths about human resistance to novelty as a smokescreen to hide its own incompetence.

"Oh, but haven''t you heard? They are already testing wearable computers at MIT research labs. A new age of incredible minituarisation and astonishing communications is just about to explode!"

Bullshit. The same old promises we heard in 1960.

The IT industry is not the leading edge of human imagination. It is a tired old windbag. I propose bulldozing the entire mob of them into a mass grave with nothing on the headstone except their own inane epitaph of non-communication: "C: BAD COMMAND OR FILENAME".

Meanwhile our expectation turns to the genetic engineers. You see, I no longer want to wear a computer. Techno-goons are still chasing that old 1950s dream, while what I want is to be born with a small benign tumour in my brain, one which is a wireless link to a worldwide communications network. Not today's spastic internet, thank you, but one with enough bandwidth to deliver the full sensory experience.

It is the year 2030 and I am walking in a park when I get a hunch that Bob wants to talk to me. I did not want to be disturbed but I trust that my unconscious personal assistant has measured the urgency of Bob''s message against my reasons for wanting to be left alone, so I open to Bob a simple verbal window in my consciousness. He explains the reason for calling an emergency meeting with me, Pierre and Fernando, and we agree to meet in virtual space. As Bob is enjoying gorgeous weather on a Californian beach, myself and Pierre accept his sensory input and find all four of us (as in a dream) embracing each other beneath the Californian sunshine and enjoying a cool drink as we discuss the problem. Fernando, however, does not enjoy hot weather, so he experiences all four of us as meeting over coffee cream on the verandah of his ski hotel. In each case the same conversation is enacted, the same decision is made (with the help of a quick browse in the British Museum Library) and we then return to our respective environments.

That vision might explain why, after merely two years and umpteen help line phone calls, I no longer waste my time trying to reach the Internet via CompuServe.

TECHNOLOGY FUTURE-SHOCK

I hear that television companies are gearing up to produce more programmes specifically designed for very young children.

Why?

Because the youngest children are spending more and more time in front of the television.

Why is that?

Because their parents are increasingly fearful of the dangers involved in letting their children out - dangers of kidnap, drugs, child molestation etc etc.

What makes parents think it is so dangerous?

Because they hear it on television...

Geddit?

Elsewhere I have suggested that very complex dynamical systems can evoke a measure of conscious intelligence, and that the most primitive need for such intelligence is usually to ensure its continued existence by any possible means.

The television industry is a sufficiently complex entity to have developed such rudimentary intelligence and, as the example suggests, it is doing what is necessary to propogate itself and evolve from diversion to necessity - even if it has to distort our worldview in order to do so.

Among the many ludicrous myths put about by technologies in their struggle for survival there is the following.

Information technology is creating absolutely unbelievable new possibilities for instantaneous communication, information retrieval and processing. The problem is that most people are too rigid in their thinking to grasp this incredible opportunity. The real hope lies with the next generation, because only children seem able to cope with this explosion in human potential.

What a load of old cobblers! The reason that most people resist computerisation and networked communications is not because it is so mind boggling but because it is such absolute and utterly useless crap. The fact that children (who know no better) can tolerate such rubbish, is wide open to alternative interpretations. For years I worked as a copywriter on brochures selling network technology. Every company I wrote for insisted that I begin by explaining at length just what an advantage it would be for any organisation to be able to link its teams together "at a keystroke", and then go on to reveal that this miracle is now at last within our reach. That was despite all my attempts to explain that any businessman already knows such an intuitively obvious fact, and all they really want to be told is why the computer industry was so gormless as to create computers which could not be linked in the first place. The credibility gap derived from the IT industry's staggering ineptitude, not from their incredible technology (which, in any case, never could and still cannot connect people at a keystroke).

I have seen pictures of tomorrow's cities' in pre-war books: in them no-one travels by car, they all appear to fly to work in automatic autogyros or commute in electric monorail trains. Come the 1950s it was clear that the transport industry had let us down. It failed to deliver this desirable scenario.

In the 50s, meanwhile, we grew out of that dream and turned to Dan Dare in the Eagle comic strip who could speak to his wrist TV and be in immediate contact with any of his crew, anywhere. Far from gasping with incredulity at such mind boggling communications we grew up believing that instant walkie talkie video communications were coming any day. Forty years on we are still waiting. The IT industry has failed to deliver just as the aircraft industry did, and it is now generating these ludicrous myths about human resistance to novelty as a smokescreen to hide its own incompetence.

"Oh, but haven''t you heard? They are already testing wearable computers at MIT research labs. A new age of incredible minituarisation and astonishing communications is just about to explode!"

Bullshit. The same old promises we heard in 1960.

The IT industry is not the leading edge of human imagination. It is a tired old windbag. I propose bulldozing the entire mob of them into a mass grave with nothing on the headstone except their own inane epitaph of non-communication: "C: BAD COMMAND OR FILENAME".

Meanwhile our expectation turns to the genetic engineers. You see, I no longer want to wear a computer. Techno-goons are still chasing that old 1950s dream, while what I want is to be born with a small benign tumour in my brain, one which is a wireless link to a worldwide communications network. Not today's spastic internet, thank you, but one with enough bandwidth to deliver the full sensory experience.

It is the year 2030 and I am walking in a park when I get a hunch that Bob wants to talk to me. I did not want to be disturbed but I trust that my unconscious personal assistant has measured the urgency of Bob''s message against my reasons for wanting to be left alone, so I open to Bob a simple verbal window in my consciousness. He explains the reason for calling an emergency meeting with me, Pierre and Fernando, and we agree to meet in virtual space. As Bob is enjoying gorgeous weather on a Californian beach, myself and Pierre accept his sensory input and find all four of us (as in a dream) embracing each other beneath the Californian sunshine and enjoying a cool drink as we discuss the problem. Fernando, however, does not enjoy hot weather, so he experiences all four of us as meeting over coffee cream on the verandah of his ski hotel. In each case the same conversation is enacted, the same decision is made (with the help of a quick browse in the British Museum Library) and we then return to our respective environments.

That vision might explain why, after merely two years and umpteen help line phone calls, I no longer waste my time trying to reach the Internet via CompuServe.

RD