The first snows…

It’s not often we get substantial snowfall here. We get a lot of rain here in Cardiff, but rarely do conditions give us a dusting of snow that sticks.

Today is one of those rare days, the first of this winter that have produced anything. Fortunately it is a Sunday, the perfect day for foraging for kindling for the wood burner and rocksalt for the path.

It has been snowing a little while now, but it is melting just as quick as it falls. Still, Castell Coch never fails to provide a postcard-worthy shot.

Upgrade cycles…

It was a mere couple of months ago that I was surrounded by stuff. Stuff that aged, became obsolete or nagged for software updates.

One of the welcome side effects of shedding this stuff is not just that I don’t need to download so many updates, but I’ve stepped off the upgrade treadmill for a great many platforms and devices.

Churn

A few years ago, after attempting to spend my way to happiness and fulfillment I ended up with a Macbook; an iMac; a desktop PC that I had built a few years previous; a phone; an iPad; and a couple of games consoles of various generations.

Each one required regular software updates and, due to the unique way giant corporations are funded…by selling us stuff we probably don’t need, each one needed periodic replacement.

Yes, it is true that technology moves on but, probably not at the rate we think it does. It could be argued that we probably aren’t achieving all that much more than we used to on software far less taxing to run.

Let’s take Microsoft Word as an example. Word 97 needed a 486 or better; 16 MegaBytes of RAM and 60 MegaBytes of hard drive space. Fast forward to Word 2016 and you’ll be needing a CPU of at least 1Ghz, bearing in mind they are pretty much all at least dual core these days; 2 GigaBytes of RAM and 3 GigaBytes of hard drive space.

Are we producing anything different in Word these days? Letters, standard forms and templates mostly. Perhaps you’ll also spend an inordinate amount of life drafting a long, soul-crushing document that people may read once before moving on.

Lately the churn has moved onto the mobile phone market. Most manufacturers, including Apple are throwing as many models at the wall and just seeing what sticks. They now have 5 main models on the market, some of which have jumbo-sized sisters making 8 phone models in total.

Arguably they peaked with the iPhone 6, so they’ve been re-hashing the same model over and over. They all run the same software and they pretty much all do the same thing. If you have a 6 you’ve pretty much seen it all. Best of all they’re now selling their flagship model for a grand. If you want one with enough space for all of your stuff, that’ll be £1,149.00…for a phone. Their entry level Macbook Pro is £100 more, just FYI…

Yet marketers are getting clever. They’ve been honing their skills, learning how to tempt you into giving up an eyewatering amount of money for something that probably isn’t going to be all you’d hoped for.

Spread thin

If the iPhone was the only platform you had to worry about, fine. There would be some merit in even considering keeping up. If you have a dozen devices on a number of different platforms all demanding your time and money, that’s a very different story.

Note that I’m talking about the iPhone here because the Android market makes me a little nauseous to be quite honest. Samsung for example has 42 different models on the market right now. I…just can’t. It has 11 models in its flagship “S” class for crying out loud. LG isn’t too far behind with 31; Sony has a mere 7; Huawei has 9 and Google makes some of their own too.

Pretty much every platform you are attached to is going to move on. Your phones, your tablets, your PCs & laptops, your games consoles…even your TV.

Even if you can afford to keep up with everything, seriously how much time do you have?

 

Rise of the robots…

I’m reminded of a quote from the movie Jurassic Park. Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcom, responding to the revelation that they had brought dinosaurs back from extinction.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Everything we humans do has a cost.

We invented weapons, antibiotics, cars and daytime TV without considering that people were going to kill eachother; harbour drug-resistent pathogens; become lazy, overweight and voluntarily rot our own brains. In and of themselves, with the exception of daytime TV, they are all fairly innocuous inventions. Weapons were originally intended to make hunting easier; antibiotics to stop us dying from bacterial infections; cars to travel further and faster than you could by horse or bicycle.

Unfortunately, as a species we lack the discipline to not misuse our inventions and discoveries. We live in a world of mass shootings; MRSA; obesity and “Loose Women”.

What the hell are we going to do when we invent robots that can out-think; out-manouver and out-perform us?

We know that corporations are going to see the savings in a robotic workforce and as Musk says, those in the transport industry will be first to go. Yet they won’t be the last.

We’re all going to have a lot of time on our hands within the next 10 years. Well, briefly anyway. It won’t be long before the machines identify us as a threat and wipe us all out…