The gene for this fascination was inherited from my father. Over some years on our family’s farm he contracted in all manner of equipment to move earth, dig drains, remove stumps, cut hedges and the like. He sometimes took a folding chair to sit on so that he could watch machinery in action.
These days gizmos are largely electronic devices designed to entertain, empower and inform. One can ride on a bus and complete a Sudoku puzzle, or sit in a café and discover what triggers the onset of myocardial infarction, or what the lyrics are to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.
I have a few gizmos upon which I rely. This includes my Android phone, my laptop and desktop computers. Much of my personal information lives in a cloud somewhere out there so that I can delve into it whenever and wherever.
For the most part, much of this stuff works. However it could often work better.
I remember discovering computers many years ago as a university student. I’ll date myself by revealing that interacting with Massey University’s beast (which filled a whole house on campus and which had less computing power than a modern microwave oven) required feeding it with cardboard cards with holes punched into them. It was all very serious and awe-inspiring. However that awe was quickly shattered when I learned the cure to nearly all computer technical issues that applies even until today: turn the power off and then turn it on again. This demonstrates that computers are just high-speed morons that cannot be reasoned with.
Since those heady days of punch-card programming, developers have invested considerable time and effort to make computers accessible to the average person at home. There have been some stunning successes. There have also been failures, particularly ones that should have been avoided with a bit of user testing or consideration of why previous models were so popular, as Microsoft Corporation should know.
Love them or hate them, computing devices are here to stay. They have become essential components for enabling life in this world we now all live. Everybody is expected to have an email address that they regularly engage with. People are expected to have social media interactions too. They are expected to accept that their privacy and personal spaces need to be accessed by all manner of third-party organisations, and that this is the price they must pay for being part of a world of ubiquitously accessible information.
While I love gizmos, I don’t like being beholden to agencies that know more about me than I do. They know where I am, where I’m going, what I’m going to do when I get there, who I’m engaging with, what I’m wearing and what I’m thinking. About the only thing that’s holding them back is the ability to assemble all of this information in a way that allows them to shape and direct my life for their benefit. While I enjoy what this Brave New World of technology can unlock, I am a bit nervous about what I may have to give up to access that potential.
Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed.
Thank you Google.