The Future According to Grace

Developments in technology move faster than it takes to draw breath, don’t they? This is how it appears, anyway to one who is becoming ancient. A small item in the [on line] paper I read bore the headline ‘How to organise and store your digital photos’. Goodness! A couple of decades ago storing photographs was all about new developments in photo albums and shelving. Do you mourn the loss of photo albums? Or are you delighted to have less dusting and more space in your home? So many technological developments concern scaling down-in some instances to nothing at all.

The same applies to books of course. Myself, I am a convert to digital books-with the great exception of children’s literature, of course. To me the content over-rides any sentimental attachment to paper. I am uncertain, however on the issue of ‘condensed book apps’ which precis novels down into 15 minute reads-this may be carrying minimalism a little too far.

Then there is television. Sets are becoming ever slimmer. Who remembers the enormous sets of the fifties with their tiny, flickering screens inside large, elaborate wooden cabinets? And film-videos seemed like an incredible leap forward in innovation but were soon replaced with the much reduced DVDs then the physical was done away with altogether by downloads. Music has moved in the same direction, with one click replacing the need for record players and records, cassette tapes and ultimately CDs.

Could this happen in the kitchen? It may have already begun. The need for kettles has been negated by taps that produce boiling water and there is more in the pipeline [so to speak] with robotic food preparation and smart this, that and the other.

And while all this minimalising, scaling down and disappearing altogether has been going on, we, the owners [figuratively] of all this technology become bigger and bigger. I wonder then that technological wizardry has not been developed to shrink humans, too. Yes, of course there are gastric bands and so on but these are not guaranteed to be successful or permanent. The idea of shrunken food, however has been tackled in literature. Turn-of-the-century writer Stephen Leacock [http://www.online-literature.com/stephen-leacock/literary-lapses/10/] wrote an amusing short story about a baby who snatched and swallowed a tablet containing 13 Christmas dinners which did not end happily.

The obvious outcome must be that the need for human beings is removed altogether. I imagine there will be developmental stages where man and computer merge. In the beginning the machine will be an appendage such as we see already [think earphones and those weird Bluetooth thingummies fastened to peoples’ ears]. The takeover will progress with insertions into brains, replacement limbs and organs then mobility aids will remove the need for limbs [now think Daleks from Dr Who]. Reduce the jelly-like substance at the heart of the machine and…Bingo! Man disappears from the Earth to be replaced by technology. I just hope the machines make a better job of it all than we have.

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Apologies to Blondie…

Owing to a number of factors [of which regular readers of this blog will be aware] I have had to use up precious hours of the life-hours I no longer have enough of-by waiting on the telephone. Gas installers, electricity providers, telephone companies, ex-electricity providers, tax inspectors, on line ‘help’ communities-these are some of the faceless establishments whose musical miscellanies it has been my misfortune to have to endure.

I am now a connoisseur regarding ‘waiting-on-the-telephone’ musical selections. Soon-to-be ex Electricity providers ‘Scottish and Southern’s’ offering is not to my taste, consisting of about six tracks which rotate in a monotonous loop of rapping, heavy metal and Bryan Adams. Eon, who are about to be the new provider at least have a non-abrasive classical offering.

To achieve the point at which you must listen to this dross you will have undergone a process involving selecting options. The options begin with the ‘main menu’. There may be five, six or more options on the main menu. By the time option number five is described I have forgotten options one, two, three and four. Since ‘what was that again?’ is not one of the options I try a random number which may or may not be ‘to speak to a human being’. Once I have selected the human being number I am on hold once more with Bryan Adams et al.

By now the carpal tunnel symptoms in my wrist has begun to show displeasure at being held in such a position by playing dead. My brain reels in sympathy and since I am sitting at the PC I begin a single handed round of Freecell Solitaire which sucks me in so that when, half an hour or so later a proper human voice asks me how they can help I have totally forgotten who I called, what I called about, or even that I called at all. It is tempting, at this point to ask the voice why my solitaire game has been rudely interrupted.

This is the point where the human explains you have got through to the wrong department, that they cannot help you, that you need to ring such-and-such a number; or if they are kindly they may even put you through to the department you may [or may not] need. Once you have gone through the musical diversion, the options menu and the lottery of a selection process again you have the joy of explaining the problem, going through your details, telling the voice your date of birth, postcode, name of your first dog and bra size all over again.

After several days I begin to feel that the loss of life hours is irrelevant, owing to a gradual seepage of desire to exist. They have worn me down. I fully understand the meaning of ‘soul-destroying’. This is how organisations, corporations and companies keep us, the masses under their control. ‘Your call may be monitored for training purposes’ intones the robotic responder and I wonder how much training is involved in making everyone’s life a drudgery. They keep me ha-aaanging on the te-e-lepho-one…

[Will there be] Life on Mars?

What exciting news that proper, wet water has been discovered on Mars! In my fuddled, amoebic, non-science brain even I have determined from the articles and interviews that this stunning news means human life can be supported on the red planet.

I wonder what David Bowie makes of the revelation. His question, written in song and released in 1971 is about to be answered, although to the disappointment of science fiction buffs we are not about to be treated to the sight of small green creatures sporting deely-bobbers but the ‘life’ is likely to be human; that is if plans to populate Mars come to execution.

Robots are to go ahead first and construct the accommodation, which is to be connected pods like those paper lampshades you used to be able get in Habitat. [As yet there are no plans for a ‘Mars Bar’]. I have no problem with the idea of robots building a house. They already construct cars and many other items. Of course you’d have to be certain they weren’t plotting something sinister like the evil Hal in Space Odyssey-but still…

Then-what? Who is to go? Once the circus of astronauts and scientists are done with Mars, what is the long term plan? This is an entire planet. What or who will it be used for? Should, perhaps, the entire population of Earth move there and leave all the hideous mess we’ve made on this world behind? Mars will be pristine and unsullied-also COLD, which means there will be far longer before global warming takes hold. It will take aeons of greenhouse gases wafting around before the atmosphere is irrevocably ruined, by which time another life-support-planet will have been identified. Hooray!

Or should Mars be used to deposit all our detritus so that our own, cosy, familiar Earth becomes viable again. Perhaps all the poisonous waste from nuclear power, all those plastic bottles that are supposed to be recycled but float around the world on enormous ships instead, cigarette ends and doggy poop could go up there?

Or should we offer Mars to Islamic State so that they can go off and commit their vile atrocities to their hearts content and leave us to live our impure lives as we please? Oh no wait, if we are not there they have no one to bomb, behead or torture; also they are pledged to expand their territory, meaning they’d have to capture nearby planets-the nearest being-yes, Earth.

There is no rush to decide the fate of Mars. NASA is dithering about probing further into the water issue owing to worries about introducing a bug into the pristine atmosphere there. Heaven [apologies] forbid that we humans should give the Martians a dose of the measles, flu or the common cold. Isn’t it a shame mankind could not have had such scruples when our own Earth was pristine and innocent…?

The Housebot is Coming!

                It would only be fair to say that these days, here at Schloss Lessageing, the family home and domestic hub that houses us, domestic chores and hum drum routines are shared on an equal basis. This is not to say that there aren’t tasks which one or other of us has adopted as routine, or that one task falls under an individual’s remit more than another. Husband, for instance is more inclined to put dustbins out for collection each Sunday night, although I do undertake this job on occasion. It is interesting to note, however that when neither of us is present the bins experience a less regular evacuation. On one occasion I discovered, while tidying the garden, the corpse of a cat, which I’m sorry to say I dealt with by manoeuvring it into a plastic bag, wrapping it in a number of layers of newspaper plus more plastic bags and depositing into the refuse bin. [I’m aware that this appears callous, but time and opportunity did not allow for a more dignified disposal]. On our return I gathered that this bin did not get emptied for several weeks, resulting in a powerful stench as the said corpse deteriorated. Luckily our neighbours are still speaking to us.

                Meal preparation, vacuuming, laundry, polishing of furniture-these are all chores which are designated either/or. This way we all get some time off for good behaviour, although myself, I do not hold the same contempt/disregard/reluctance for domestic tasks that I had as a proper working person, in fact I may even, on occasion derive something approaching satisfaction in their execution. This is because it is possible to accompany chores with pleasurable activities such as radio listening or story composition. In other words, they are mindless and allow the brain to think about anything one likes.

                But I am not so far removed from the world of proper work to have forgotten how utterly exhausted I used to be on my return each day and also at weekends [when it would take until Sunday night to recover from the rigours of the previous week]. So the news that Dyson, the vacuum cleaner manufacturers are pouring mountains of cash into research into a variety of domestic robots seems, on the face of it to be encouraging-that is, until you look forward to the time when these domestibots begin to be commonplace.

                You will be able to sit watching the TV while the hooverbot revolves around the room. Your only movement will be a slight lifting of the feet as it nears the sofa. You will be able to read a magazine as the tablebot clears the plates; only needing to raise your paper as it takes your plate. You may lie, comatose on your sun-bed as the mowerbot beavers up and down the lawn manufacturing its perfect stripes, and you can continue with your next level of ‘Candy Crush’ as the refusebot empties the bins, the laundrybot sorts the garments and the chamberbot makes the beds.

                And if you are very, very lucky the hoistbot will come along and lift your [by now] obese form from its dent on the couch and transport you along to the hospital for your heart transplant. What’s not to like?