Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, taking a pause from the brute logistics of changing my mobile number after four years. Authentications to be redirected, security resets, the odd hundred websites or so that need amending. Nothing impossible; merely implausibly, laughably tedious. How did this complexity creep in? At what point did the rise of the miraculous devices that would free us from the tedium of repetitive labour make us slaves to the next sequence of ones and zeros that could ruin our lives accidentally because a single digit got transposed?
There is a malaise that accompanies computers. It is a combination of the ‘delegated power’ excuse and the ‘if many are at fault, no one person will be to blame’ defence. ‘Just doing my job’ evolves into ‘just doing what the machine says’ and lo, you have gone from clerk to priest, delivering the word of inviolable authority – whilst having none of your own.
Computers are only ever as good as the people who make and program them. They are not oracles, and while those who work upon them relish the awe in which they are regarded (revenge of the geek, etcetera), most of them would be horrified at being deified for something they wrote simply to pay their rent.
A computer is a tool. It is a complex tool, but we have granted it a strange, pseudo-autonomous status that places it as our superior and arbiter in many situations. Here we see man’s oldest enemies – ignorance and fear of the unknown – raising themselves again.
If the computer is to be regarded as an authority, then those that created it must be inviolable, not a pastiche of merchant interests. (Again, the vile epithet ‘profit’ taints a simple concept.) Therefore, it behooves you, the user of these marvellous tools, to understand them. For in that understanding, there comes a diffusing of the almost reverential apathy: the waving of hands and dismissive “oh, I don’t really do computers”.
NEWSFLASH! You do computers every day. More correctly, they ‘do’ you. Your life is entirely dependant upon devices that for some reason you choose to relegate to a quasi-religious state of blissful ignorance.
Now, I know that you could point out any piece of modern technology and say: “Well, do you know how to use/build/maintain that?” And I’d quite probably have to say “No.”
But I could then go to the strange altar in your home that your children worship at for hours every day, and with a few flourishes and strange imprecations, find out HOW that strange thing you pointed out works. I could tell you it’s limitations and potential issues. I could show you how much we rely on it. You’d be reluctantly impressed. I’d be embarrassed. You’d ask “How did you do that? Well, I did that by using the thing you refuse to understand to alleviate my ignorance on the subject. (I’d also add that I looked up multiple sources before settling on the opinion I gave.)
The greatest cure for ignorance is sitting in virtually every home or hand in the developed world. Yet you continue to spout your dogma and stupidity like it is holy writ, choosing to watch videos of people being stupider than you, watch soap operas about people worse off than you, and play colourful children’s games. Thus entitling yourself to think yourselves ‘better’ than some nebulous, media-created ‘them’.
Is that a better thing than my state of watching a nebulous ‘them’ lead the majority of humanity toward poverty and ruin? I cannot say. We all choose how we live, to a greater or lesser extent. I have no right to say that my way is better than anyone else’s.
But I can state that willful ignorance of what is happening about you, when the means to enlighten your ignorance shares your home, is inexcusable.
It’s your weapon. For pity’s sake, learn how to use it, at least to the point where you know where the ‘shots’ are coming from, if not who’s firing them. You may even discover ways to stop the ‘shooting’. Being informed and making informed decisions about this society we live in is now essential. Because if you’re not paying attention, others are. And they benefit from your blind, apathetic reliance on someone (anyone!) else to make decisions for you.
Yes, I know that as long as the utilities keep running and your favourite stuff is available, you don’t really care, despite clicking humanitarian ‘like’s and doing the right petitions.
When the lights go out, it will be too late. You will have no warning. No excuses. You failed.
Computers are not the answer.
Information is the answer.
Computers are a tool.
Learn. Adapt. Survive.