Monday, 19 September 2016

Peak-Tech: An Open Letter to Big Tech

Hey Guys (I greet you in your native vernacular),

Do you think we could tone it down on the software updates a little please? I mean, I think we have now passed the point of Peak-Tech, the point at which technology ceased to be a boon to society, and is now increasingly becoming a hindrance. When you can look up a word in a dictionary in a book quicker than it takes for the app version to even load up on your phone, something has gone seriously wrong.

To examine further, let's look at a case study: Apple's iTunes. I imagine each iTunes Team Meeting begins with the Project Leader saying, "Ok Guys, let's go around the table and I want everyone to say one really cool thing about iTunes that we can remove or over-complicate in the next release." I require a music player to do precisely three things:
  1. Show me my music;
  2. Play me my music; and
  3. Occasionally give me access to a store to purchase new music
And that's it. I really don't understand why this requires a new version of iTunes every six weeks or so. I tend to download about one update in four, and even then by accident, because each new version of iTunes only serves to introduce more and more steps to achieving any of three requirements listed above. It also removes half of the albums covers, requiring time and energy to reinstall them all.

Do you think that we could have a version of iTunes designed for people who aren't deranged (also Microsoft, Windows 10, same question)? Or maybe someone at Apple could look up a thing from history called a CD player and take note of its display panel. This is all that 99 out of 100 people need from a music player. Oh, and while you're looking up CD players, you might also want to read up on a thing called the Sega Dreamscape. That's all I can see when I see adverts for the iPhone 7. Even the biggest company in the world is only ever one naff product away from oblivion.

Now Microsoft. You are Big Brother. After all, you have placed screens and cameras in the homes of every middle class family (the Outer Party) in the country and periodically report back to the government (the Inner Party) on your data gathering activities. I imagine even Big Brother had to upgrade his equipment on occasion. Like Microsoft, I bet he performed these upgrades in the early hours. Except that Big Brother was fictional, and therefore competent, and so I bet the people of Oceania never had to re-enter their password when they woke up, or try to find the work that they left open the night before, or spend the best part of two hours trying to find out why no sound is coming out of the jack socket, as I did as a result of the last Windows 'update'.

I also now have to enter my password whenever I want to access my external hard drive, despite not having been asked for a password for the hard drive in four years previously. Honestly Microsoft, if you want to update something, what about Internet Explorer? After all, it's hasn't been the year 1998 for ages, and the only reason that anyone would use Explorer over Chrome or Firefox is because they don't know how to change it (it's like Bing: I have only ever used it to look up Google).

Also, shouldn't someone by now have figured out a way to install updates without the need to restart the system? Maybe if someone in Silicon Valley took a day off from imaging what crazy thing they could be doing and instead spent that time working out what they should be doing for humanity's greater good, we might get some shit done around here. Even the great industrialists of the nineteenth century collaborated in building schools, hospitals, and other great public works. Tech companies seem only to be interested in acquiring other tech companies, and collaborating in the general trend towards hoarding the wealth in ever more tightly controlled circles and viewing the general public as a commodity to be monetised.

Maybe instead of pissing millions away on vanity projects like skydiving attempts, you could, I don't know, provide clean water to an African village, or modernise a Romanian orphanage, or do something to fight the abuse and hatred that women face every day in every part of the world by men who call themselves heterosexuals. Yes, I'm sure you pay lip service to all of these things already. What I'm saying, do it 50 times as much. That's what would be of use to me right now. I certainly need that more than I need iTunes randomly adding albums to my playlist, which seems to be this latest version's trick.

Avast: If I wanted to pay for anti-virus software, it wouldn't be yours. I use you because you are free. End of.

Netflix: Love it, keep doing what you do. If you could make the main screen less busy, that would be of help though. Not everyone's got a high spec laptop. Thanks.

It is said that the Babylonian Empire fell because its bureaucracy became too fat and bloated, and corruption did for it in the end. I think our society will go much the same way, only through software updates. I see an orbital defence system. A large asteroid has been identified as on a collision course with Earth. The co-ordinates are uploaded. The system is ready to fire. And at the critical moment, a message will flash up at NASA headquarters: Please wait while Microsoft installs essential updates.

For want of a sustainable system, the planet was lost.

Many thanks.

Rob Maher.

PS: To whoever is in charge of cash machines in the UK, what is the point of offering the consumer options, if those options are then disregarded? Thanks for that.

The Tower of Babel - Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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