Future Technology Quality may reflect past glories.

Mar 5 11:17 2005 Malcolm James Pugh Print This Article

The Dark Side of the Moon, The Universe and everything.

Last time we saw hardware turning somewhat towards mobile phones,Guest Posting with PCs still firmly entrenched. Today we will look at the future of non hardware based things to come. Increasingly, things are bought ready programmed and we have little influence over what we have bought or use, just initial choice of supplier and package.So we are being gently pushed down pre-defined paths, with conforming to compatibility being paramount, especially as the current market is essentially split between Google and Microsoft. Here Google will try to offer all options to all men purely by being online to them, as opposed to Microsoft’s tendency to tie the user to their PC for Word Processing/Office/Email applications and get their frills on the net. Much as most would privately relish a Google triumph, this is Microsoft after all, who have seen off a good number of contenders for the crown, and also generally speaking we are all more comfortable with the net for the net and the PC for the rest; it is what we have grown up with, plus possibly there is an underlying fear that the net does not reek of “permanence” as it was historically not so long back “down” as much as it was up, and is somewhat dependant on transient factors, not least electricity in an ageing, creaking grid network, surviving in an epoch of sophisticated terrorism. (Personally I think our increasing reliance on all things electrically based, with no alternative parallel backup manual systems is a t least worrying and at worst frightening.)Anyway, I think Microsoft will be the major monopoly for many a day yet, with a new search evolving with Longhorn and as in any event the “devil that we know”.

On another tack, I recently visited Ireland, where my mobile phone supplier does not function! News to me, and news relayed via texts from other suppliers who do work there almost as soon as I stepped off the ferry. “ Welcome to Ireland we are now looking after you” kind of thing. One even had the temerity to phone me and ask if I wanted to upgrade to their network as mine did not work there. A little startling to think you are targeted so quickly, automatically.So project this further if you will, as ID cards, and the like containing DNA, Iris details and fingerprints, plus bank balances and credit card balances become prevalent as money ceases to be in tandem. You walk down the street, and a CCTV recognises you via facial and retinal scan correlation and activates a speaker/plasma display which says “hi Malcolm, are you interested in ………. Today?” It will know your available credit, your credit rating , preferences, your season of the year typical buys. It will have countless data via surveys you filled in to get freebies. It will in short target you with your weaknesses knowing the money is there. Similarly actually pick up any displayed article and DNA or fingerprint technology will trigger a similar chain of events and questions merely by having touched them. All this is delivered to your door with minimal fuss, and the item may even tell you when it needs replacing, and on command replace itself via the home online system hooked into the intelligent fridge, washing machine, cooker, and freezers and conversing 24/7 with the net and relevant suppliers and re suppliers. Your home system constantly monitors stock and varies purchases according o season and personal preferences learned ad hoc from its inception, much as your blue DVD system learned your viewing preferences and your commercial TV channels learned to tune their adverts specifically to be in sync with your personal psyche, style and tastes.All choice is made to be as minimal as possible, all whim taken away everything is so SIMPLE. There will be no problem getting what you want, when you want it, almost instantaneously, and your every internet search will be analysed and filed for finer tuning into your underlying psychological profile.given this weight of mundane tasks being effortlessly achieved in a sort of background low profile mode, and given most will effectively be “working from home” there may well be a tendency to introversion, an almost hermit-like existance, where communication is by and large electronic and not in person, more “in camera”. We see the start of this in the endemic mobile phone use by our youth who are losing their grasp of spelling and personal contact via texting, and an almost addictive usage of phones where once we talked face to face. This incidentally stimulates rudeness and abuse and easily causes offence where none is intended, as the electrons flow and the actual physical face to face meetings with all their emotive vision hearing touch and smell are slowly but surely eroded and recede, and with it human contact is so much the poorer.As I say this all assumes an uninterrupted power source which can Answer increasingly heavier and heavier demand with absolutely no blips. Is this achievable, is this stable, is this possible?Much as our supermarkets now are eviscerating smaller shops and garages, so they will become sole silent suppliers to your door via the global net,( or not so silent suppliers should you venture past your front portal) . Holidays may even become a matter of “plugging in” to distant locations via a sensual virtual link, sort of web cam with touch and emotion, then……no more travelling, packing, flying, ferrying, just dreaming awake with subliminal time outs for ordering. We are leaving an age of choice and reason and opinions to go to an era of facile effortless indulgence and contentment at the expense of our free will being subjugated to appeasing the convenient, the line of minimal effort. Every day that passes it is easier to spend and receive, easier to indulge and then discard. It is also becoming increasingly hard to manage and function without a mobile, a laptop, a PC and a Net; and more expensive to buck the system and “do it manually”.Soon there will be no money, no bartering, no MANUALLY. Soon it will all be credit and online and AUTOMATICALLY .Who is to say which is preferable, but there is little doubt which way it will go. Ask your computers, they will tell you if you don’t believe me; soon we will be more comfortable talking to our computer than to each other. Apparently even now users in Internet cafes and Universities use the SAME computer in a room of many, giving choice, because they TRUST that one, they are happy it worked for them before; plus your computer never lies to you or annoys you or answers you back, it just does what you say, for now.

So I envisage a shift towards a “2001 HAL” society where your every perceived need and want is second guessed, offered, accepted and delivered. No actual feeling of paying or ordering or thinking is likely, simply a constantly replenished supply of perishables with a finite life span. Not “pay today and throw away” but “Don’t think why just re supply” and to this end all software, peripherals, and the Net will be geared up to be more and more effortless to you and less and less manual intervention from you, in the race to automate the mundane and strip away the stress and even choice in supplying what are perceived and judged to be your needs, albeit by others. As long as your credit is good it will be an effortless electronic environment, always assuming zero credit/banking errors, which may gradually become more and more hard to actually prove has happened as the Net becomes unassailable and infallible seeming. Computers are not good at self regulation. The race to supply this panacea is currently attempting a wireless supplantment of hard wired technology. I am not at all convinced that the security and interference aspects of these items and strategy have been fully thought through and addressed, especially in light of the plethora of new gadgets which all use various similar frequencies. We will address these issues in the next missive from Mars. I leave you with a sobering thought. We can now use many times better fabrics, papers, materials and manufacturing processes than we ever could say late last century. Yet things from that era, like cookers, fridges, books, vintage cars, tape recorders, LPs, reel to reel tapes, model trains for example are still working (in many instances BETTER than their modern counterparts). If we are so advanced then why do we deliberately manufacture things which are not meant to survive for even a fraction of the durability of these old items, when we have better materials, better tools, better knowledge, and better tolerances.We are a million times better at selling, and what we sell falls apart in no time, and no one seems to care, notice or even question such a trade in of quality and reliability and style for shoddy, unreliable unremarkable rubbish.A friend of mine is in printing, and the challenge there and here in all aspects of modern manufacturing, is to put back quality, trust, and reliability and promote the value of true worth over transient gloss. It would appear the sales industry has become so perfected at what it does people have lost sight of the actual quality of what they buy, and how long it is likely to last. We seem to prize short term gain over long term pride and craftsmanship; we outsource all our manufacturing to offshore and far east enterprises purely on the basis of short term cost and at the real cost of long term inability to produce from within our own lands and dependency on others abroad, what price then low cost when they are the sole capable producers? Once you have thrown out the basement and the foundations it is hard to rebuild your house. If the incentive were not solely focussed on style over substance and cheapness over craftsmanship, If advertising actually pushed us responsibly to think that quality is a virtue in itself worth paying for, and you DO in the end get EXACTLY what you pay for, then maybe Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Royal Doulton, Wedgwood and Hornby would not be outsourcing to China or mass producing what were classic marques and designs in grotesque parodies of their former selves, under new managements using old famous names but not reflecting old hand made craftsmanship, pride and years of reliability.We also seem to stifle ourselves with rules that do not seem to apply to our competitors and then let them walk all over us on price. Take my printing friends trade; we try to use sustainable or recycled sources, wheras the competition is happily chopping down virgin forests and bleaching paper. Multiply that by all the call centres, toy manufacturing and base manufactured products in the far east and China , where the basic wage is infinitesimally small for huge undercutting of the west and how can we compete, we of the fair wage for all and minimum wage per hour ? China and the East think in centuries, we think in days in comparison. In centuries though we will have no manufacturing base left. Does no-one see the irreparable damage being done by losing brands such as Royal Doulton, or all the lace and cotton industry or the steel and shipbuilding? Everything is being sacrificed on the altar of expediency and lowest possible cost price versus maximised profits. Surely someone should see a gap in the market for quality and reliability in hand made articles made with pride by master craftsmen, or classic books bound in age old style and antique charm.we are truly brilliant at advertising, so why not let the goods match the spiel and create a niche market for connoisseurs if you like , an upper level style AND substance branding for those with discernment and a little more disposable income thoughtfully employed and not frittered. Better one Dickens than twenty Mills and Boon. It is possible quality may re emerge and make a comeback and substance may yet win out over gloss and style, as everything is cyclic in the long run. We await the future, but my bet is the book and the magnetic tape will eventually be seen to be better than the .doc and the cd. Surely a hand bound First edition of Dickens is a little above a computer print out? Surely an original reel to reel of Dark Side of the Moon through a Ferrograph is a different planet to a bland and frequency challenged CD. Look on EBay at second hand prices of LPs Reel to Reels First editions . Then look at second hand prices of CDs and talking book cassettes. If the resale value of quality is there why is the sale value eroded and derided in favour of mass produced inferior brands?Recently an original DSOM sold for 305 pounds plus postage, the CD sells for four quid. I digressed into the quality field to outline another possible avenue for the future, QUALITY MAY RESURFACE.We may yet see a renaissance of hand made goods, ideally suited to internet sales and perhaps have new searches like “Quality Quest” and “Antique Admiration” new websites like “Handmade Hardbacks” and “Solidwood Style”. As stressed before the world at large is strangely cyclic, so it is possible the markets may cry out for goods once more that do what they say they will for a long time, are craftsman made, individual, reliable and do not depreciate or fall apart overnight. Given small workshops from home could become a cottage industry once more, the whole the sum of its parts, what better way to re promote an old idea than via the internet?Just as Opera and Classical music is resurgent, so too quality goods may reinvent themselves. I hope so. http://www.stiffsteiffs.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

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Malcolm James Pugh
Malcolm James Pugh

ex programmer

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