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Your inner Luddite

December 2016

As a reader of this column, you are probably fairly receptive to technological change; you try to make the most of your computer and may well have a smart phone which sometimes works.  If you are not bang up to date, you are far from old fashioned.

But are you?  I have noticed that there is a growing number of my generation (I’m in my 60s) who are turning into post-digital luddites; we eagerly adopted computing 20 years ago, but we are happy with the technology we now have, and don’t want it to change much.  Does that ring a bell?

Here is a test: I’m prepared to bet that you have recently been forced by the manufacturer of your phone or computer to update it; it now looks and works differently.  I also bet that there several online services you use that have changed how they look.  It might be your bank or an online shop, but they have tinkered with it in some way and you have had no option but to learn once more how to make it work.

Did you gracefully accept these changes, or did you gnash your teeth and roll your eyes before you grumpily set about getting to grips with the changes?

If your reaction was the latter, you are at risk of being branded a post-digital luddite; you embraced the early progress, but enough is enough, thank you.  I suspect I am teetering in that direction at the moment, mainly because a considerable amount of new technology is pursued simply because it is possible, rather than because it is sensible.

For example, I am assured that there are proper trials taking place in which an internet enabled fridge (yes, really) will recognise when you are low on milk, butter or whatever and automatically order some more to be delivered.  Worse, they are also trying to find a way for the delivery to be undertaken by those miniature helicopters called drones. 

The dream is that not only will the goods arrive at the front door on a small flying bedstead, but your internet enabled front door will open as it approaches, as will the internet connected kitchen and fridge doors, and the food will be placed in the fridge. The drone will then fly back the way it came and all doors will be closed.

I’m serious; there is real work being done on this.

Let’s speculate what might actually happen.  You are out but the dog is in; the drone arrives, opens your front door and presumably disables the burglar alarm.  The dog escapes and is replaced by the burglar who has been following the drone.  Possibly it was he who ordered it in the first place, having hacked into your toaster and made it convince the fridge it needs eggs.

Or perhaps you are not out, but in the kitchen when this four-propeller giant insect invades your house and catches you a thump on the back of the neck as you run from its whirling rotors. 

Even if the drone does make it safely to the fridge, it will then rely on the egg allocated space being available and it not blocked by the bowl of leftover pasta from last night. What’s more, all this assumes that the wretched thing has not already been picked off in mid-air by some crack shot eight year old with an airgun.

You can see why the techies are excited by this sort of thing, but it’s exactly what makes me lean towards the post-digital luddite tendency; just because something might, possibly, work, it doesn’t mean that it should be built.

If God had meant eggs to be delivered by drones, he would never have given us milkmen.