Are we going in the right direction?

Since television viewing became similar to radio in terms of choice, I have become rather adept at pre-recording my viewing in order to filter out a lot of wasted time. Technology would be my saviour and my balanced choice of old favourites repeated on Dave, sport, movies, dramas, quality radio and comedy across multiple channels are perfect ingredients for chilling out.

Except of course when I have to watch the end of the previous programmes, prior to my buffet selection. The other day I sat through the end of an old Lost in Space TV programme from 1968 and laughed out loud when I saw the robot (a cross between or maybe the love child of a Michelin man, Robocop and an early Amstrad emailer).  I think it, he or she was called B9 and perhaps the father of or provided some spare parts for Dr Who’s  K9?

With that annoying voice and pedantic persona – a few seconds of it was quite enough.

Then worse was to come later when I sat through 2 or 3 minutes of a tortuous Top 50 worst video incidents sent in by the general public (why?  I don’t know), I had the remote in my hand like a gun, but it didn’t go off.  Again I had the technology and I didn’t even need to get off the sofa – but my mind was elsewhere. In the midst of the pious c-list celebs being asked their views on some poor souls making huge mistakes on camera, I started thinking about Tom Watson (not the losing US Ryder Cup captain), the old head of IBM who when asked about the size of the marketplace for computers in the 50’s – he said he believed there was a market for about five.

I’m sure he was misquoted and I have some sympathy for him; computers then were the size of sheds and needed enough energy and maintenance to power a cruise liner. It would have been like the CEO of Breville being asked when stood beside a massive steam engine for the first time, whether a version of this would in future be used in the home to cook vegetables for the Sunday dinner table.

Also how were all of these technological advances funded?  I’m sure IBM had deep R&D budgets but what if some of the greatest inventors or visionaries had to go in front of our TV Dragons, you can just imagine the responses…. (In broad Glaswegian) “ so you are telling me Mr Gates that people will buy software to run computers in their home and your friend there Mr Jobs, you are trying to tell me that people will want to copy their records onto a tiny device to carry around with them?”  “It’s ludicrous – I’m out! “

Few people could have imagined the speed of change, especially in useable technology, in times gone-by, NASA were the conduits for a whole range of developments in pursuit of materials and gadgets capable of being used in space missions but the spin offs into our lives were endless – Microchips, long-distance telecoms, water filters, CAT scanners, satellite navigation and dialysis machines to name but a few. It is amazing what can be done with unlimited funds, a space race to win at all costs and no dragons to sweet-talk.

But the person I want to speak to is the one who thought that satellite-navigation systems in cars were a good idea. I’ve been driving for some 36 years and I’ve probably driven around 750k miles around the UK, most of it with my eyes open so I know my way around and when someone asks an open question like how do I get from Nottingham to somewhere like Chester, I can usually name all of the roads, Is this a bit sad?  ….Yes, a bit useful? …..  Of course, until my sat-nav gives me three possible routes and then the “lady” plays mind games telling me to leave my chosen route and I have a crisis of confidence in my route planning. …..What does she know?, a road block? or does she have the map upside down?  I’m not generally an angry person but my sat nav often pushes me too far to the point where I turn it off and take my chances even without an obligatory map in the glove box.

So are there other technological advances we can do without?

Number two on my list is my IPhone’s Siri who should be my bestie but isn’t, she (or is it a man using a woman’s voice? A trans-istor may be involved, I don’t know but often she / he /it doesn’t help me and often makes matters worse.

Siri should be the conduit between me and all of my free time, sorting appointments and saving me money, sifting through the retailers with special offers, the advertisers and the sales promotions – “she” should be reminding me what I have to do and where I have to be, saving me precious time, sorting out my day, my shopping lists and be my brand-match and price-watch with Amazon drone delivery all rolled into one – but it really doesn’t work

I have taught “her” to call me by a name that puts a smile on my face but that doesn’t make up for the shortcomings in the service – the theory is great – a fully googled or binged-up lady talking to you and solving your problems but when I need Siri and I ask a question often we don’t agree and “she” doesn’t help, goes silent, becomes intransigent and often disappears when I really need her – gulp…. I’m getting flashbacks now!

Perhaps Siri is related to my Sat-Nav and both are long distant relatives of B9?   But now perhaps it isn’t just me having these issues – check out Amazon’s new Echo service – I loved their Kindle right up until the wrapping paper came off and the kids frowns when they realised it didn’t allow them to go on-line….

But I dare you to watch the 4-minute Echo advert without reaching for the remote or the off switch or telling Siri to switch it off your IPhone. No doubt Siri will spring into life and obey your every command instantly because if she is listening to the Echo she will know that there’s a new kid in town, a big sister or brother, a game changer though?  I doubt it.

While our vital service providers struggle to allow us to make calls on trains or most of the main roads at peak times, I can’t believe we will hang around to connect to another faceless machine to tell us where to get the best deal on vegetables to put in the steamer prior to Sunday lunch – especially when you already know the answer.

The Internet of Things is the next big step, or so I’m reading anyway but who is going to go first and make the big prediction?

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