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Are We Losing Control?

Feb 11, 2018

An acquaintance of mine loves doing crosswords. Now I should point out at this stage that the only iPad that I’ve ever had was when I once played the part of Long John Silver in a local am-dram pantomime; but my friend has an iPad within which he enters the appropriate clue, plus the word ‘crossword’. The answer then appears on the screen and is duly entered in the applicable grid location, and so on until, with a self-congratulatory flourish, the puzzle is duly completed. He thinks he is being very clever - I think he is bonkers! There is really no difference between what he is doing, and simply waiting until the next day’s issue and then filling in all of the answers. I did inform him of my opinion - although I must confess that he wasn’t really listening as he was busy looking up the etymology of the word ‘bonkers’. 

What about at a dinner party (hate the term)? At one time you could raise a contentious subject, get all of your guests engaged in a lively and sometimes animated discussion, and then you could nip out to do the washing up or update yourself with the results of Strictly Come Dancing. Not anymore, for they will all merely reach for their mobiles, browse Google, find the definitive answer and there the discussion ends. Next subject! 

It’s like an invasion! I’m trying to get through life without a vehicle satnav; I refuse to spend a long journey being told what to do by Homer Simpson. The only problem is that I am constantly getting lost, but that’s beside the point. Oh, and in case you’re wondering; the point is that we are increasingly allowing ourselves to be controlled by electronic gizmos. In fact it’s worse than that, we are actually collaborating in this process. 

Go to a restaurant and whereas, at one time, young children would be very demanding and energetically noisy, they now all sit in quiet acquiescence whilst they indulge themselves with electronic gadgets. In the meantime the parents carry on with the selfish act of enjoying themselves unencumbered by their young offspring. Mind you, it’s very frustrating to see quite how dextrous a three year old can be under these circumstances. I’m quite convinced that the next digital breakthrough will be made by a five year old who will be a billionaire within three months. 

This brings me to Facebook - which my family insisted that I join in order to enhance communication - and I must confess that I had no idea how popular this would make me, I have hundreds of people queuing to be my friend. Most of them I don’t even remember but I just hope that they don’t all turn up at my house at the same time.  I now know how lovely and talented their families are; where they are at any particular moment and what a wonderful experience they are currently having and I even receive a relevant and informative map to make things easier for me. Now whilst it might be exhilarating to know the precise location of somebody whom I can’t even remember, or in addition to learn that they have achieved a maximum score in a particular on-line quiz set by one of my other friends in Indonesia – probably by looking up all of the answers on Google – I still wonder whether they would be better off sending this information to someone else, especially when I’ve just discovered that my roof is leaking. 

We hear talk about artificial intelligence but is it not fair to say that it’s our intelligence that is becoming artificial? All we have to do is to look for the answer on one our electronic sources. To put it another way, somebody asks you a difficult question; you create a diversion such as breaking into a fit of coughing whilst you are looking up the answer under the table and then you reply. They then tell you how clever you are. You in turn tell all of your friends on Facebook, who go on replying for days, and then the artificial cycle is complete.  

We now even have politicians stating that they don’t need to know anything anymore because the answer is available on their iPad. We’ll arrive at a point where original thought no longer exists, competitors on Mastermind will be allowed to use their mobiles and so it becomes a question of speed and not knowledge.  

So finally we come to Twitter – or ‘Twit’ for short. This has I’m afraid lead to a situation where we have individuals who think they can rule the world in a mere 140 characters. Call me old-fashioned but, whichever way you look at it, this is nothing more than a vehicle for pontification. Don’t get me wrong and, before you say it, I know that this new electronic world has many advantages. I feel I could write so much more, but I must finally conclude as Homer Simpson has just told me that my bath is ready!   

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