Friday, 23 September 2011

I fixed the dryer last night

And yes, I was rather pleased with myself.

Seriously, though, this does say something about the age we live in.  Twenty years ago, I'd have called in a repairman without even thinking about it.  No, that's not right.  Twenty years ago I was living on a boat and I'd have been shouting "How the blazes did a broken clothes dryer get on my deck?"  Anyway, I didn't know any more about home appliances then than I do now and the thought of fixing one would have been out of the question.

Now?  The washing machine stops agitating,  a burner on the cooker goes out or the dryer stops heating and I just run it through Google, find a tutorial on Youtube and in a couple of hours I'm ready to pull out the tool kit.  In fact, the only regret I had this time around is that I kicked myself for not pulling up the how-to video on my netbook so I'd have it right there while I was yanking out the heating assembly.

This doesn't even include how easy it was to find a shop with the right part I needed.  In fact, I found one a couple of streets over from a Denny's diner so I could have dinner afterwards with the daughter, wife and wife's octogenarian grandfather who's getting on a bit.

I'm bringing this up not to merely say "gosh, how wonderful things are," but because I realise how hard it is to explain to my daughter what a revolution occurred before she was born.  She's nine-years old, has her own phone that connects to the Internet (I keep her utterly ignorant of how to use most of its functions because it's strictly for emergencies) and she complains because it hasn't got a touch screen.  If someone had handed me a bit of technology like that when I was nine I'd have been horrified because I'd have been convinced that I was now obligated to wear tights and fight crime.

My daughter now lives in a world where she has instant access to whole libraries at no charge.  She can call up all sorts of tools that will carry out calculations that ate up hours or even days of my youth.  She can with a single mouse click watch thousands of films, play chess, or chat with someone on the other side of the world.  She thinks nothing of the fact that I routinely have video conferences with people in Australia,  negotiate with clients in Hong Kong and do other things that were once the reserve of power players in pressed suits, yet Daddy does it at a scuffed Ikea desk while wearing his jammies as his work clothes.  She has no idea of how restricted information was only a couple of decades ago or how isolated the world was from itself.  I sometimes tell about how we only had two television channels when I was a boy and no DVDs or video on demand and she looks at me as if I'm mad.  She does that anyway, but this was especially insane.   How could there be a world where she couldn't talk to Mama instantly when she hurt her knee or where you had to describe an axolotl rather than pulling up an image on the phone.  She lives in a world where information is a fire hose and the trick is to control the flow to make it manageable.  The challenge is to turn it into knowledge and to turn that knowledge into wisdom.  Put then, that's always been the case.  Some things never change.

Now if I can just convince her that rotary phones aren't a fable.

1 comment:

eon said...

Handed an IPhone at age 9, I'd have expected to be handed a briefcase along with it, containing a phony passport, a suppressed 7.65mm Walther PPK, a breakdown sniper rifle, and both a pair of flat throwing knives and 50 gold sovereigns concealed in the lining. Plus orders to go somewhere and "remove" somebody.

My answer would have been, "I assume 007 is busy?"

The view our "enlightened elite'" have of all this data available to us peons is best summed up by (who else?) Al Gore;

"Vast amounts of unused information ultimately become a kind of pollution."

Especially when the information tells the hoi polloi that our leaders may not be as smart- or honest- as they'd like us to think.