Wednesday, 19 March 2014

[Double-edged sword]

Our office went paperless a few months back. This, as far as I’m concerned, is an excellent notion for many reasons, not the least of which being that there’s a good 4 years of my life I’m never getting back after standing in front of a photocopier.

It also means that the giant files we had regarding claims, claimants, accidents, incidents, tree-related claims, and any other randomness that seems to take up a stack as thick as my arm, are now simply zipped into an ‘e-file’ online and stored in cyberland. Ah, the blissful efficiency of it! My OCD shivers with delight.

There is, of course, a downside. As with any software there are bugs, errors, organic errors (read = humans who screw things up), and a variety of other teething problems that come with a system used by over 500 people at any one time.

That is how I came to be writing a blog at 10.30am on a Wednesday instead of doing some more productive work. The system crashed yesterday for 3 hours and logged us all out. It slowed to a crawl this morning, froze and promptly died again at 9.30am this morning. At which point System Support had to restart the whole system. This takes an hour. Or so.

I’ve been checking SMH, eBay and my email for 25 minutes in the hope that something more interesting will come up. Sadly not. Which leads to blogging.

In an age of technology so efficient and effective that the intuitiveness sometimes outpaces the humans who invented it, I feel we may be getting ahead of ourselves just a little. I’ve had the thought before, but it occurs to me that we are inventing items hand over fist without checking first that they function in extreme environments, as well as mundane ones. By extreme, I don’t mean take your smartphone to the snow and bounce it off a cliff. As anyone who has had their phone, laptop, or game console accidentally bathed in a variety of substances (water, wine, chip crumbs, etc. are the most common) and then dropped on a hard surface, the durability is only as good as the casing you have to protect it.

What I mean is the highest amount of users, with the highest rate of errors at one time. I understand that if we tested for every eventuality ever, we’d all be here until Christmas and nothing would ever be released, but surely there’s a standard? It seems not. Or the standard is so baseline as to be outdated before the unit is released.

Last month I got a Nokia Lumia 1320. It’s amazing; bigger than my hand, the console has Windows Office, reasonable memory space, and the ‘desktop’ layout can be altered to suit your colour and design tastes at a whim. I will totally admit I was sucked in by the shininess of it. It’s big, bold and very high tech. It makes me look like an engineer and all the cool kids want one. Lawyer-boyfriend is also the one who talked me into it, so I can feign street-cred in my choice if he thinks it’s worthwhile as well.

That being said, the apps available are probably only about 20% compared to Apple or Android, the functionality is still upgrading, and the camera – though very high quality – is about a third as intuitive as my last phone, a HTC that started to develop a zany personality towards the end.

I do so love this phone though. It continues to be brilliant and as I haven’t quite played with all the files, documents, games and other options, every day reveals something new. However, it’s a phone. Or, as I have come to understand smartphones, it’s not; it’s a computer that has phone capability. And that the clincher I think we all need to remember.

A few years back when I moved from Apple to Android (thank gods), I realised something vital; we no longer have phones, we have computers. And we need to treat them as such. And when you use a computer, you are no longer working in a solitary environment, you are networked. All. The. Time. We need to stop thinking that we can use our technology in isolation and deal with the fact that everything is connected, and therefore the chance of things going balls-up is higher than if you worked alone.

This is a problem of our own making and we are way too far advanced in the matter to try to halt progress now. Which, in hindsight, is a shame really, as some forethought would have been good really.

Just on another quiet note, with an ongoing obsession with technology that looms over every new generation, we are all hard pressed to be so objective and consider how our smartphones, computers and other devices are ruling our lives, whilst making it easier and easier NOT to interact with each other. Technology is a human-made element, like a lot of others that we place so much faith in, and then become horribly disappointed when it fails. Perhaps if we took a step back and noted how much work we put into objects that serve us, it may provide a little perspective.

I love technology; gadgets, games, phones, computers, car accessories; I love it all. But to be brutally honest, I can’t wait to get to Bali in a few weeks and have little to no contact with the outside world due to my lack of connectivity. Nothing pulls you back to your root nature than Nature.

When was the last time you went a day without technology? A whole day. Let alone a few hours. Mine was sometime in the ‘90’s. Even then, I’m not sure it was a whole day. TV counts as tech too you know. It really is an interesting concept; have a good think and see what you come up with. I bet you’ll be surprised. And hats off to those of you who can or have done it for more than 24 hours – some of us have to work with it all the time, so we have no real choice in the matter.

I just think it would be nice if we could all remember exactly when and where we are every now and then; you are not your phone. What your facebook profile says about you does not define you. 15 minutes spent reading a BOOK, as opposed to some online gossip, will not kill you. If a system crashes, the world will not end; the earth does not grind to a halt. Hard to believe, but I swear it’s true.

It looks like the online system is back in action and I can process the 15 emails that dropped in while the software crashed. I might just check my phone quickly and see if my eBay purchase has been marked as sent yet…

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