Ollie’s Modern Life

This month, Ollie decides to cut his technology some slack.
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I’m no longer a technopeasant. In what seems to be a weekly occurrence, I have now updated myself to version Me 10.12.4. The update included a couple of bug fixes but the main addition is a pair of wireless earphones. They’re fancy too. They come with a charging case to keep them fully juiced, they connect to my phone without me even trying, read my text messages and remove the utterly infuriating challenge of zipping up my jacket without getting the cable caught. Yup, they’re pretty great, except they’re not.

They do all those things, sure, but only when they feel like it. Connecting to my phone via bluetooth seems to be a task that is completed based on atmospheric pressures, stages of the moon and whether or not the pope is taking a shit or not. The snazzy tech spaff stares at me like I’m just another snobby twat who doesn’t deserve anything so sophisticated in my life. “Go and fix global warming” they’ll insinuate “then you can listen to wireless music, prick.”

It got me thinking. I never used to have this pain in the arse in my life, why do I have it now? In fact, there are loads of plugged in, wifi-enabled, techno pain in the arses carefully located across my entire waking life, ready to irritate, infuriate and annoy.

Mobile phone connection is my arch nemesis. When it works, it is the best thing in the world. When it doesn’t, and dips in and out when it bloody well feels like it, I might as well be a Neanderthal with a typewriter, fucking useless. Trying to watch a video or stream audio on my phone is a stress-inducer that I am convinced will become the new burden on the NHS.

Underworked junior doctor 1 “What’s he in for?”

Underworked junior doctor 2 “a video buffering at a key moment in The Crown”

Underworked junior doctor 1 “Shit, we need to get him to ultra-high intensity pain-in-the-arse reducing electrocardiogram”

I made that procedure up, but they’d have to create something to deal with the epidemic, and it’d be expensive and probably need a Wi-Fi connection.

We have allowed our lives to become saturated with digital annoyances that weren’t there just a few years ago. Rather than make our lives easier, machines are conforming us to their limited way of thinking and it’s getting us wound up. My highly sophisticated voice-controlled TV stick, that connects me to endless on-demand content from all over the world, can’t even adjust the volume on my telly. The Zenith Radio Corporation developed a remote control called the “Lazy Bones” in 1950 for goodness sake, and guess what, it could control the fucking volume.

While we tear along at a million miles an hour, updating ourselves and our world, we don’t seem to be taking stock of how all of this technology is actually impacting everything we do. It’s not just us getting annoyed by it either: research suggests that our insatiable appetite for snapping photos every five seconds is literally changing the way we store memories. Like, actual memories, using neurons and all that.

It’s a problem we can all relate to, but should we be complaining? Err, no. It’s fun to complain, but we have to sit back for a minute and think about the incredible revolution we’ve gone through in a staggeringly short amount of time.

One of the most impressive places to see the development in technology and how it can help people, is drones. I’m a bit of a drone nerd and did everything I could to get my hands on one when they first started hitting the mainstream. The idea of a flying camera has intrigued me ever since I tied my Sony Ericsson to a polystyrene glider and flew it over a field. It didn’t even fly well, but the intrigue never faded.

The first proper drone I bought was terrible. It was hard to fly, the footage was wobbly, it crashed a lot, and the battery life was about as impressive as a muffled fart. That was five years ago. Now, drones have avoidance technology, the ability to navigate themselves through obstacles with multiple sensors and cameras. They have camera tracking technology and can film footage that is both stunning and industry-changing.

The implications have gone far beyond taking pretty pictures. Advances in the tech have allowed for specialist sensors to be carried so that agricultural land can be monitored from the air leading to better yields. They can be used in search and rescue missions to reach otherwise unreachable victims, helping to improve chances of survival. They can deliver vital supplies such as medicine and food to impoverished areas and they can work in large swarms to undertake tasks that would otherwise take huge resources and time to complete.

It’s staggering isn’t it? And it’s ok to marvel. They can do all of those incredible things, life changing, world changing things, but they’ll still fuck up and go wrong. Just bear that in mind next time you swear at your smart fridge freezer with fully integrated touch screen device, prick.

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