Our Lives On Record

Bought a new phone today – I won’t say which one – and for the first time, I changed from a pay-as-you-go phone to a tariff system. The type and level of information they demanded from me, in order to register, was unreal. My wife and I had to supply less information to register the birth of our child.

It often occurs to me – as it did in the queue, waiting to buy my phone – that we spend a disproportionate amount of our time dealing with these petty little things that fill our daily lives. Buying new technology, registering it so we can use it, learning HOW to use it, finding more uses for it, realizing we need something else so we can improve our lives, upgrading to a more useful model or a newer version. We should be able to step off this ride from time to time.

But we can’t, at least not yet. Technology is changing constantly and it hasn’t yet found a level at which we can settle, where we can say ‘this is a graceful, efficient system that works in harmony with our lives, so let’s stick with it until we can change it for the better in a seamless and comprehensive way’. We have to keep up with technology, not only for the sake of keeping in touch with the stuff itself, but also to keep up with the thinking that goes with it. For those of us, in particular, who need to use this technology for our work, we have to stay literate in the language of our brave new world.

But part of me still objects. I object to having to give out details of my life that aren’t relevant, to people I will never meet and cannot hold accountable. People who may do things with that information that I might never be aware of.

I object to the fact that I have to download different types of software for different ‘makes’ of file. Every piece of word processing software should be able to read every type of text file – text just doesn’t change that much. The same goes for image, video and music files. This is entirely possible with existing technology – it’s only the manufacturers who stop it from happening. We should not tolerate manufacturers who force us to restrict ourselves to a particular file type or format. We pay their wages.

We are trained to be good, obedient consumers who pay to serve ourselves, rather than be served by the person we’re handing our money to. And to help them even further, our lives are becoming every easier to observe and record. But we don’t have to be so docile. Technology informs us, enables us and empowers us. I want technology to fit my life, rather than having to build my life around the technology I have to keep paying for. We can enable human beings to survive in outer space and we can use nanotechnology inside the human body – if we were as clever as we thought we were, this stuff would be making our lives simpler, not more complicated. That’s my thought for the day.

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