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Offbeat – 07 June 2013

http://pierremare.blogspot.com

 

Perhaps someone will come up with a virtual bar app. Network by video with friends, in a virtual bar. Enter the number of drinks as you go along and watch the display become fuzzier and fuzzier to match your level of inebriation.

Computing fascinates me, though perhaps that is the wrong word. ‘Infostream’ sounds more apt. Those old things that used to run programmes or, if you remember the Eighties, used to allow you to write programmes, are redundant, mostly, unless you are a programmer. It’s all about various types of information and little else.

I sat in the pub the other night. There were about fifteen people, of whom about ten or twelve were occupied with their mobile devices. Even the guy with the old phone spent about half an hour texting. The info flowed out of the pub, and back in. A couple of people sat and talked to one another. You could see their references to the outside world. They gestured to their tablets and smart phones, as if that was where the people they talked about, resided.
Up until a couple of months ago, the devices were smart phones. Now tablets are beginning to make their appearances. The mid-sized items seem to be popular. They are small enough to be carried around conveniently. One of the people brought in an expensive, branded laptop. It didn’t fit in with the scenery: too big, even if it did have the piece of fruit glowing on its cover. Size counts in the convenience stakes.
There has been some babble about wrist computing, an unlikely return of the watch. The talk is subsiding. Google has the killer device, Google Glass: info delivered to the eye and the ear. It’s controlled with a touch pad and voice. Picture the pub in a couple of years: people scratching in the vicinity of their ears and muttering as they stay in touch with the rest of the world.
Right now, when I go to the pub, the entertainment of choice is Big Brother on one of the wall-mounted televisions, and football, rugby or golf on the other. The shows make noise. I wonder if someone will develop the technology to filter the user’s voice from the rest of the hubbub. If not, the etiquette of the pub will probably swing to silence. That would be a pity. I rather enjoy some of the music shows after the sport and Big Brother.
Actually, I wonder what the point will be of going to a pub? A restaurant makes sense because the food is different from food at home. Alcohol is the same whether it is drunk at home or elsewhere. What will be the point of leaving the house?
Pubs used to be about talk and drinks. Televisions moved in and the talk died back. With the new devices, there is even less chatter. Perhaps someone will come up with a virtual bar app. Network by video with friends, in a virtual bar. Enter the number of drinks as you go along and watch the display become fuzzier and fuzzier to match your level of inebriation.
There are a bunch of people who don’t like the new scenario. I try to find something wrong with the the scene, but I can’t. It’s evolution.
Once upon a time there were villages and dirt roads. The flow if information was limited to short distances, mostly, depending on the horse and / or cart. After a while printing, trains and, later, cars, spread the extent of the flow of information. Then came phones and faxes. The Internet of the late Nineties, as miraculous as it seemed, was little more than a precursor to the hyper-connected brave new world.
Should I be worried or dislike it? I can’t see why is should. I can sign petitions to save the bees or register my outrage at inhumane treatment of other humans. If I need to know something I can almost always find it out in a matter of minutes. I have friends all over the world now. I have become a tiny part in a massive web of information that surrounds me, flows into my head and from my mind to others.
If there is something to worry about, it is separating myself from the stream and finding myself. It is easy enough to pick up on someone else’s ideas and adopt the content as a way of thinking or enjoying. Being myself is not so easy anymore.
If there is a threat from the new Tower of Babel, it is that we will become less individual.

 

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