Tag Archives: technology

Death by Playmobil

I passed my driving test 23 years ago. I started driving so long ago, Arsene Wenger was in charge of a Japanese team with a name like an Austrian mountain troll and Henri Paul was still alive. I miss Henri. We all do.

I’m neither good at driving nor bad at it; I’ve never won a race and I’ve never knocked two people off a tandem. Generally speaking I can sit behind the wheel of a car and know, with a reasonable degree of confidence, how to make it move forwards, backwards and side to side. But I do have one question.

What the fuck is the handbrake doing down there?

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Maximum AI

Well that’s it then. It’s all over.

Plato. Lincoln. Einstein. Parks. Tendulkar. Churchill and Pryor. Schindler. Tubman. Wilberforce, Hendrix and Peel. Johnson and Jonson. Fleming. Pankhurst. Dec.

These names and so many more light up the sky like Sana’a at dusk. The history of humanity is a tale of triumph against the odds. But every good thing must come to an end, and that end is upon us.

Someone has actually built a T-800.

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Here’s looking at me, kid

Sometime in the late 70s I remember watching Alien at a West End cinema. A space crew receives a distress call, and as they sit down to eat their no doubt well-earned grub they’re unexpectedly joined by a testy little monster bursting out of John Hurt’s chest.

The shit really rains down when the Facehuggers show up. Prising them off someone’s face just delays the inevitable and the only sensible solution, as Ripley so eloquently put it, was to the nuke the shit out of planet LV-426, just to be sure, and by Alien version 2, 4 or 81 they did. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s ‘perfect creation’ was lost.

Only it wasn’t, at least not to Earth. Facehuggers are everywhere. Digital Facehuggers.

Continue reading Here’s looking at me, kid

A hole to China

It was a rather hot summer’s morning at about 10am. I’d been up since 6am because I work for myself and my boss is a total prick.

My friend came to see me, said he had the day off. Now, you know that friend you have that, when they say they have the day off, you know you’re about to spend all day down the pub? Well, this is my friend like that. Before I could even argue he threw me my coat, and as this was a summer’s day, this confirmed my suspicions that we would be in the pub all day and most of the night.

It was one of those days where work didn’t matter. Nothing mattered, really.

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Smells like static

If you love your phone so much, why don’t you just marry it? If our eyes keep rolling to the back of our heads in ecstasy with every swipe, that might just be the next logical step.

This week I was at a restaurant where two people sat at a table, seemingly oblivious to each other’s presence. The reason? Their brand new Apple iWatches – the perfect way to enjoy all the benefits of your mobile phone whilst on the move. A bit like, well, your mobile phone but without the extra effort of having to reach into your pocket and make excuses to the person across the table before checking the latest video uploads on PornHub. Or if you’re a real wanker, the most recent news from the stock market.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those technophobes who didn’t buy a Kindle because I loved the ‘experience’ I got from reading a book; the smell of the paper, those chance encounters with the previous owners’ handwritten thoughts on a passage. Who needs that when you’ve got a novel that smells like static? I accept that technology is our greatest liberator, but each screen has become a window of escape from one another. And we couldn’t love them more for it.

There are studies out there that compare the reactions our brains have when we look at pictures of brands such as Apple and religious imagery. The brain activity reported was scarily similar for both, which goes a long way in explaining the weirdly energetic, drink-the-Kool-Aid style enthusiasm that you get from Apple store assistants. Another study that used the same technique also found that their brains lit up like the White House in support of gay marriage when subjects heard the sound of their phones go off. This is the area of the brain associated with love and compassion.

Both of these studies go some way to explain why our sphincters tighten at the thought of leaving our mobile phones at home for a day. Brands bank on this anxiety and devotion to our technology when it comes to bending us over and financially fucking us every time they release a new product.

But despite hating how we’re exploited by big corps and wishing we could bypass tech to really connect with each other on a deeper level, there’s the bigger part of me that loves being able to hunker down behind a screen on the morning commute and not have to worry about uncomfortable eye contact or chit-chat. And bypassing those awkward moments at dinner by checking out the latest duck face on Instagram (maybe an Apple watch isn’t such a bad idea…).

In fact when I read about Pepper, a robot that can read human emotion, the first thought I had was ‘I want one’. Clearly everyone else had the same thought, as it sold out in 60 seconds flat for a mere £1,000 a pop, plus extras. And why the hell not? This robot’s concerned about your emotional wellbeing. Yours and only yours. It won’t judge you on your outfit or when you walk into the room with something in your teeth. It only cares about cheering you up, hearing you out and quite possibly making you feel less like the depressed parasite you are.

Either way, move over dogs everywhere, man’s got a new best friend. And we need to get a plug point to charge them. Go sit over there or something. Don’t look at me like that… stop judging me!

Recalculating

Technology is all around us. You can’t miss it, because most people are absolutely obsessed with it. Everything has to have something technical included – heck, we can’t even buy a watch without it having internet access, and it seems that everywhere we go people are becoming more and more attached to their gizmos and gadgets.

This is great, in theory. Because, moaner though I may be, I am all for the moving forward of the human race. Everything has to develop, and if that means making everyone’s toaster Instagram-enabled then so be it.

But what about when your technology lets you down? What do you do then?

Because the truth is that we’re all becoming a little bit thick. We don’t know how to do anything on our own. Only the other day, I was driving round the countryside, a place that I had never been to before, with my trusty Sat Nav blasting directional advice in my face every five seconds. And then, suddenly, the fucking thing packed in. There I was, surrounded by fields – unfamiliar ones at that – and the only thing my usually-helpful Sav Nav lady had to say was “recalculating, recalculating, recalculating”. But she never finished the job.

Don’t get me wrong – I am no irresponsible driver. Of course I carry a map. But what I realised on that day was that carrying it was one thing, and fucking reading it was another. I didn’t know which direction I was heading, I didn’t know what road I was on (Sat Nav was supposed to be taking care of that) and to be perfectly honest I don’t think I could read a map if I was paid to.

After a few minutes of utter panic, I managed to download a list of directions on my phone that I had to pull over and refer to embarrassingly frequently for the rest of the journey. So the iPhone saved the day. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d had no battery – a situation I find myself in a lot thanks to my general state of disorganisation.

I am somewhat comforted by the fact that it’s not just me who doesn’t know what to do in cases of technological malfunction. Or at least I would be comforted if the situations I found myself in weren’t been so fucking irritating.

I am a keen fan of online banking. Honestly, it’s brilliant. You just log in, tell the bank where you want your money to go, and it’s there at the click of a button. But, sometimes, something goes wrong and you need to get in touch with the call centre staff. Oh now then, don’t we all fucking love call centre staff. The people who are clearly thrilled to be alive, to be sitting at their desk, taking our calls.

The one I got through to on this occasion was a particular pleasure – coughing down the phone without apology, asking all kinds of irritating security questions that I was certain I hadn’t set up, before going on to say, “Oh I’m sorry, we can’t do that for you at the moment, because our system is down”. What? I cannot pay a simple bill because their system is down? Well that’s fucking shit, because you have my money in that system, and you’re not letting me get to it.

Isn’t it worrying that something as important as banking can “go down” without warning, and without any hint of when the service might be up and running again? Even scarier was the lack of knowledge about what to do in such an event. I asked if I could leave details, or could I get a call back later when things were working, and the girl on the other end just stuttered something about the system being down. Yes, I got that bit. So here we are, in 2015, unable to access our own money because “the bank is down”!

As a society, we’re fucking shit at doing things on our own. Our parents and grandparents had nothing like we do, yet they’d be perfectly capable of getting from A to B and sorting their own finances out without any help from technology at all. So thanks, technology. You’ve turned us into a load of incapable dunces. Do me a favour – if you want us to rely on you, which we do, at least fucking work.

Sevens & Melons

Some topics are better left avoided. A couple of weeks ago I broached a subject with someone closer to me than seems wise on their part. I was met with a torrent of invective, accusing me of being out of touch, insensitive and irrationally negative about a section of society as comparatively blameless as Michael Gove’s chauffeur.

And it’s obvious to me now that I’m in a rapidly shrinking minority. The target of my complaint is becoming the norm in a way that raising your right arm seemed perfectly natural in Dusseldorf a few decades ago despite most people doing it having never grassed up or gassed up a Jew. I would do well to shut my trap on this topic, say nowt, accept reality.

Then they came for the Bing users, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Bing user.

The tube pops out into the open air one station before I get off, unless I’m planning a unscheduled paralytic sojourn in Totteridge, which doesn’t happen as often as I deserve. No matter what people are doing before train sees sky, they are all about to stop doing that. To a man and woman, they all hear the whoosh of the change in surroundings and immediately think: “Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck something might have happened I don’t know about.”

It’s interesting to see a carriage full of people reaching for their smartphones to check which worlds have collided in the 26 minutes since they last had reception. I like to think they’re checking for updates from CERN, or that washing machine that bloke in the t-shirt covered with tits dropped on a comet. Maybe they’re looking up whether Edward Snowden has finally tipped us into Armageddon, or perhaps reading an incisive article on whether nine decrepit old gits are the best people to decide on whether two gay people in love should be allowed to marry. I reckon I could check whether the Russian bombs have started falling by simply looking at the horizon but I guess it can’t hurt to find out the exact casualty figures. Then share them, with #thatstheendofthatthen and #someoneleftthegasonlol.

Social media is a blight in itself but I find it fairly easy, for the most part, to ignore and deride it in silence. If you people really think you’re so interesting that you need to keep tabs on one another throughout the day, be my guest. I’m boring, unashamed of it, and I assume others are too.

But must you constantly stare at it? Considering the race is dooming itself in countless other ways it’s hardly important that people are turning their brains to goo by swapping real-world surroundings for ten square inches of unnatural light at an elevation that will give them intense back pain in their forties. But when you make me move out of your way as I walk down a pavement because you’re lost in a world of gurning imbeciles updating you on what they do/like/eat/want/think/buy/make – it’s never make – I feel I have the right to stand in your path, wait for the moment you realise your feed has been interrupted and bellow “WE’RE HERE” into your uncomprehending mug.

Of course, they’re useful to have. Having the internet in your pocket allows simple resolution of an argument about whether Colin Caldwell was top scorer for Plymouth Argyle in 1977 or the bloke who played George McFly in Back to the Future II. I don’t know how life could continue without instantly being able to prove someone an idiot for claiming France has a bigger land mass than Chile, unless there’s a library somewhere the Tories haven’t shut yet.

But surely I can’t yet be alone in feeling like a fool constantly staring at a box in my hand. If I don’t have a book or a paper, I’ll sit in a tube carriage or in a pub simply looking around, seeing things, thinking and overthinking, planning and daydreaming. It sits in my pocket, idle. What would I look at if I had it in front of me? Do I lack the imagination to make the most of the frighteningly powerful tools at my disposal?

Yesterday I saw a middle-aged woman in a suit gawping open-mouthed at a grid of what appeared to be fruit, which she was matching somehow to make disappear. Two apples – pop, gone. Four pears in a line – vanished in a twinkle of stardust. She lives in a magical realm of glowing bananas and superpowered grapes, as though it wasn’t Pac Man and Space Invaders that won the electronic wars fought in smoky back rooms in the 1980s but Cherry Bar Electrocoin and Sevens & Melons.

Fuck that. I used to play chess on the thing occasionally but I packed that in when I realised I was staring, forever staring, at the box in my hand in just the way you can imagine governments the world over really want us to. Shut up, buy stuff, then die. The other day I saw a man cross a reasonably quiet road in front of a car. Earphones in, phone in hand. The car was turning, going slowly. It stopped, gave him a short beep. He carried on. A longer beep. He looked up, raised his free hand in distracted apology, looked back down and carried on across the road. Shut up, buy stuff, then die.

Last week, for the three-minute ride between the last two stops on the tube, I faked a smartphone in my hand, pretending to stare at it intently, tapping and scrolling all about. Not one person in the full carriage noticed me doing this. To anyone looking at me I would have seemed like the latest lucky winner of Serco’s takeover of the Northwick Park Mental Health Unit.

But no-one was looking at me, because no-one is looking at anyone. Pocketless women walk everywhere with their phones in their hands, in case of a sudden buzz or chime alerting them to a selfie they couldn’t have waited to see of a fuckwit on a beach somewhere. There’s a news report on a rapid increase in people having belongings snatched by blokes on mopeds, but still phones stay out in the open.

The next time someone walks into me with a phone in their hand it will tip me over the edge into tripping people over and running away giggling territory. Mind you, if no-one ever sees me, I can never be caught. I should have thought of this earlier. But as a member of the vocal minority, I implore you to at the very least look where the hell you’re going. By all means check them when you’re stationary but please, we have enough sodding zombies on TV these days without the living dead taking over every real-world pavement as well.

A newfound respect for my boobs

After a recent break up with my boyfriend of 6 years, aside from looks of pity from my friends and questions about grandchildren from my mother I got a new sense of freedom and a surge of creativity. I therefore decided to pack my shit and move to a place that could offer both inspiration for my writing and fun for my young spirit – London.

Now, it hasn’t really done much for my writing – and I’m starting to believe that spending my days stuffing my face with Doritos and watching old episodes of The Walking Dead might have something to do with that – but it managed to not be a disappointment in terms of fun. I spent the first couple of months pub crawling and talking to pretty much anybody who would reply to my semi-drunk ramble (met some nice people, we still keep in touch). Cute guys, free drinks and a newfound respect for my boobs. What’s not to like? I even managed to land my first one-night stand (do I still call it that if it was morning?)

It eventually became exhausting and quite tedious. Simple as it may sound to those of you who aren’t connoisseurs of the nightlife or simply aren’t female, it is a far from simple process.

The most excruciating part of it is shaving. Who the fuck came up with the idea that women – and ONLY women – should go through beauty rituals alarmingly similar to torture methods in order to be redeemed acceptable for mating? Far from being a flower-power Charles Manson loving and shower hating hippie, I strongly disagree with the idea that the female half of our species should have to pour hot wax on their body for the sake of having a (usually) very hairy male counterpart cum too early while not even bothering to notice the lack of pilosity on the lassie’s limbs and nether regions before passing out with a look of unmitigated bliss on their unshaven face. As if exuding hormones is not enough anymore.

Thus, here I was, in a seemingly hopeless situation until, out of nowhere (seriously, I have no fucking clue as to how I stumbled upon it) here comes my solution – Tinder. Oh yes, the mystery world of online dating was opening its gate to me through this little app on my phone, with a shortcut icon shaped as a flame. Because nothing burns stronger than desire (they should use that in the commercials).

Having Tinder is much like ordering a takeaway. No need to put on fancy clothes and drag your fat ass to an overpriced restaurant with a name you can’t (or won’t) say out loud; a few clicks and swipes and you have whatever you want delivered to your front door, so to speak (seriously, don’t invite complete strangers to your house). I’ve saved time, that I can spend instead with Norman Reedus, and money, to buy anything that’s not hot wax with.

The first thing to remember about Tinder – it’s a hook-up app. Dreaming about finding a boyfriend on Tinder is like putting on a von Trier movie and expecting unicorns who fart rainbows and Sean Bean characters who get to live for the entirety of the film. It’s not going to happen. – the sooner we accept it, the better.

The app is perfect for someone who enjoys single life and just wants to make it easier. Hey, it’s free sex without the pre-mating ritual of drinking shots until he looks like the lost twin of Ryan Gosling. Doesn’t get easier than that. Not to mention the luxurious option of un-matching him right after (thus shutting his mouth for eternity), rather than explaining you can’t stay for breakfast because your grandmother’s neighbour’s cat died and you must absolutely be there for them. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with society? Apparently, men have to fit two criteria if they ever hope to be matched with someone: write down their height (absolutely must be taller than 6ft) and have a photo of them next to a tiger or other exotic animal. Alternatively, they can replace the animal with a cool sport or a photo of a headless six pack floating freely in the virtual universe of hormones translated as megapixels.

One of the two will get them a girl with a cute face. That’s it, really, because the fat ones only take selfies from shoulders up; if they won’t even show their shoulders, it’s bad – they probably have a double chin (no offence, but I’m not all about that bass). Also, out of all the men I talked to on Tinder (most of them in their late 20s/early 30s) not one got my references to music or film, which has me believing that men nowadays are stuck listening to Skrillex and watching The Hangover 3.

This whole Tinder issue says a lot about us as a society. The internet made it all easier. We have everything delivered to our door: groceries, appliances, books, clothes, boxes of shit (those cards really ARE against humanity, aren’t they?) And now sex. Simple and uncomplicated. Or is it?

In the end, on balance, pub crawling’s not so bad compared to blind first dates. (Remember that 6ft six-pack issue I was telling you about? Yeah, people lie about that.) Also, I’d rather run into my future “some guy I met” in a place I know and like, which will mean we at least have something in common. Not to mention I know where to start looking for him a few weeks later to tell him he gave me herpes or a baby.

Blue waffle

I cannot deny that the internet is a marvellous creation filled with many wondrous things. Stocked to the brim with joyful bundles of cute kittens, online shopping and naked celebrities aplenty. It is inarguable that the world is a better place for the instant access of information, film showing times and ‘free’ music.

None of these life-enhancing features change the fact that the internet is annoying as fuck.

Take Google, without doubt the single most-visited site on the internet. You pop along for a daily search, but unless you’re searching for something huge (Amazon, BBC News or midget-porn), or you have a very specific search term, then you’re likely to end up with a load of shit. Searching ‘holiday’ returns 85,300,000 results. In theory this means there’s a holiday-related website for every 85 people on the planet.

The reality is that the internet is getting too full. In fairness, not all of those millions of results will be relevant; in fact I’d argue 85,299,990 are irrelevant as the majority of people never look past the first page of results anyway. But stuff gets put on the internet every day, and rarely gets taken off. The whole thing needs cleaning up – not a job I’m volunteering for (unless it pays well) but it will have to be done at some point so why not get on top of it now?

Let’s have another little sideswipe at Google. Those fuckers play around in their ball pool meeting rooms and snooze away having wet dreams in their sleep pods, all the while representing a liberal and ‘for the greater good’ ethos, but behind the scenes they’re just as capitalist as your evil Microsofts and PC Worlds.

Case in point are the sponsored search results which appear at the top of your search in an eye-catching yellow box. Some company has paid for that, probably handsomely depending on how common the search term is. I can live with that, money makes the world go around, but most of the time it’s fucking useless and doesn’t take you where you want to be.

I recently found out that they often pay for these adverts per click, so now I click the shit out of one whenever I see it. What’s that? I’ve searched for pictures of the Eiffel Tower and Argos is the top link…CLICK CLICK FUCKING CLICK. I go back and forth a few times clicking away, laughing at myself maniacally in the knowledge I’m wasting their money like a bored evil villain in training.

And what’s the deal with cookie tailored advertising? Just because the wife did a search for the NSPCC six months ago on the same IP address doesn’t mean I need to see some sad kid’s face whilst I’m searching for the latest celebrity phone hack. It’s a serious buzzkill.

Great in theory, the internet. Fucked in practice. The next time you’re at a dinner party and some smug bastard called Gerald mentions what a testament to the achievements of modern man the internet is, just tell him to Google ‘blue waffle’.