Thursday, November 20, 2014

Modern Computing and Chris Packham's Lounge


Before the internet came along, it was generally accepted that the only people who would use computers in their leisure time would be "enthusiasts". But with the dawn of computers doing interesting things like sending smileys, showing pictures of naked people (I remember having to look at wire-frame naked people back in the eighties, you had to use your imagination, it wasn't all done for you) and breaking news stories about cats, technology is no longer just the preserve of the ginger bearded. People who watch operas even have a twiddle. But these non-techy people wriggling their manicured toes in the pond of technology still seem to intuitively understand one important technological principle: computers are binary.

Trip Advisor demonstrates this well. As of 20/11/2014, not one single review, all of which use a scale of 1-5 stars to indicate your assessment of a service, has been assigned a score other than five or one stars. Every hotel and restaurant in the world is either embarrassingly perfect or embarrassingly embarrassing. People are either cock thrustingly enamoured with their pork chop or upset to the point where they push their plate aside, cut off their own penis and demand the chef cook it medium-rare as a replacement.

It's not just Trip Advisor that is blighted with this all or nothingness, the Daily Mail website article comments section has equal binary spiting. Except in the Daily Mail you only normally get one side of the argument and that side will invariably be the one that supports the supposition that, "everything is shit and it's foreign people's fault and if you don't think that you're part of the PC brigade". Brigades are very bad things to Daily Mail readers. It would though, take just one brave commenter to destroy the whole binary philosophy of micro-computing. Type, "I can see both sides of this story," hit "send" and we would have the next technological leap! Balanced computing.

This can't happen of course. Computing and that that sails on it are, and always will be, inherently binary. Anybody stupid enough post a comment suggesting that both sides of an argument could have merit would be castigated:

SteveFromLeeds - 1 hour ago
Maybe there's merit on both sides of the argument?

EnglandIsNotEnglishExPat - 1 hour ago
How can there be two sides to something? Only scitzo's think about two different things at once. Does SteveFromLeeds have kids, does the council know he's a scitzo?

NonPCWhiteGuy - 1 hour ago
I notice with interest that  SteveFromLeeds (if that is his real name), makes no mention of whether he's black, Asian or Chinese?.

The question of whether artificial intelligence could ever fully replace human intelligence is often talked about. Maybe this will happen not by computers thinking with nuance and consideration, but by humans continuing along the path of being definitely sure about everything, no matter how little they know about it. The average person has no more idea about whether there is too much immigration in the UK than what the colour of Chris Packham's living room walls are. In fact, if somebody asked me what the colour of Chris Packham's living room walls were, I would either tell them, "I don't know" or break into Chris Packham's house, I wouldn't just get angry and type in, "off-white".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

In a flap

Sometimes you need a flapjack. There is no metaphor here, because if there is one thing that cannot be used figuratively it is a flapjack. I'm not reporting something here, I am telling you that this is the way it must be. If you need to make an overarching point via the medium of analogy use football matches or a paperclip factory, or Belgium, leave the crazy fudged up oats alone.

Sometimes you need a flapjack. It was such a day today. The centre of Bristol has jettisoned its Chandos sandwich shop, has thrown the woman with the Salted Monks by the Watershed into mythological memories. You are a man surrounded only by pretzels. Only by pretzels. People really want to sell you pretzels. They carry plates of pretzels around offering you free sample after free sample after free sample. The world has produced too many pretzels and the pretzel foot soldiers are hungry for battle. In a few years they will be tired and disillusioned as happens in every war, but for now they only want your blood, they want it sucked out of you so they can force pretzel into its space. You will be a spongy pretzel filled doll, empty of your previous passion. Don't let them make YOU pay for their over enthusiastic knot-shaped dough baking.

I'm not saying I couldn't find a flapjack, that I couldn't have walked in to any newsagents and picked out some plastic covered dry shadow of flapjack. But we both know, me and you, that that can never be enough. That it can never feed that hunger without humiliating itself. It's Emmerdale not Coronation Street, it's Chevy Chase being filmed in the shadows of Apocalypse Now 2. I stand in the centre of Broadmead a camera sweeping around me as I turn violently searching for the smallest hint of quality flapjack aroma. The street preacher who has never had a whole sentence consumed by anyone ensures us that, ",HE will take away your sin," and I know now what I must do. I must leave this place and walk for 23 minutes to Cotham Hill, because the pretzels haven't got that far yet. 
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