Simplisme

I’ve enjoyed Natalie Solent’s writing over at the Samizdatian lair for well over a decade, and this latest one of hers is no disappointment.  The actual topic is some MEGO (my eyes glaze over) piece of political arcana called “Tactical Voting Websites” or some such rubbish, but it was her description of the ultimate microwave oven (seriously) which got me going — a microwave which she bought for her father, who didn’t want anything complicated or he wouldn’t use it.  Here are its technical specs:

It had two dials, How Hot and How Long.

Compare that to her own modern one which does everything (badly) and has features which she has never used, and that probably puts her in the company of just about, well, everyone in the world.

I would buy one of her father’s microwave ovens in a heartbeat, as long as it had one teeny-weeny additional feature:  the 30-second one-touch full-strength blaster — but I wouldn’t cry bitter tears if it didn’t.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?  Compare and contrast:

On the left:  useless shit that over-complicates your life and costs far too much, all while achieving pretty much the same result as the fine stuff on the right.

Don’t even get me started on cell phones.  As far as I’m concerned, mobile phones could have stopped right here in terms of design:

…while adding all the later system features we’ve come to know and love [eyecross].  (Am I the only one who needs about twenty minutes to send an intelligible 3-line text on an iPhone or Android phone?  Great Mercury’s blistered fingers:  do they design modern phones’ “keyboards” using a three-year-old girl’s fingertips as the model size?)

I’m not a Luddite, by any means.  I am an unabashed follower of Occam’s Razor, however, which in this context means that simple tasks can best be accomplished using non-complex tools — “best” being a combination of utility and cost.

Couple Bugs There

Let’s hear it for the Surveillance Society:

Privacy advocates used Amazon’s facial recognition to scan thousands of random faces around Capitol Hill in Washington DC to highlight the dangers of this technology’s surveillance capabilities.
While walking around, the team found the facial recognition successfully identified a congressman, but also claimed to spot Roy Orbison – an American singer who died in 1988.
The demonstration was a message to Congress to ban the technology, as there’s no law preventing people from scanning your face without your consent anytime you step out in public.

Hey, I’m pretty sure that ol’ Roy did a few regrettable things in his lifetime (bonked underage groupies, etc.) so now that the gummint has found evidence of his “existence”, they can do a little retroactive post-mortem prosecution.  I’ve seen worse.

What I wanted to see was that the software identified someone who was provably somewhere else at the time — so that in times to come when this bullshit is used by the cops to break an alibi, the evidence can get tossed out of court.

Luddism

It began, as so many of these things do, with the French, over two centuries ago.  Now we have this:

UK workers are sabotaging and assaulting workplace robots in an attempt to stop them taking their jobs, finds study.

But for some manual workers they have found their own ways of stopping the robots’ rise to world domination – by confusing them.

I predict that this is going to become more, not less common.

“But why, Kim,” you may ask, “is this happening at all?  Aren’t robots / A.I. / Smart Stuff going to be the Way Of The Future?

Here’s a hint:

The report also predicted 20 million people will have been replaced by the machines in the work place by 2030.

That’s just in Britishland.  And let’s not hear the tired old “buggy-whip maker” argument again.  With the trend which is taking place, robots and A.I. will soon have the capacity to take over jobs which may now seem intrinsically human, but aren’t, e.g.:

A backlash is not at all out of the question.

So Much For Progress

at least when it comes to buying food:

A checkout-free Sainsbury’s branch has reinstalled its tills after just three months because customers chose to queue at the helpdesk to pay in the traditional way, rather than use the app.
The Holborn Circus shop was made till-free in April this year, with customers able to pay for products using the company’s app on their phone – in a drive to speed up shopping.
Shoppers download an app, called SmartShop then scan the barcode of the items they want to buy.
But the experiment resulted in long queues at the help desk, as people tried to pay for their groceries in the traditional way.

See, I know where this came from.  Some twerp in Finance looked at the staffing costs and recommended to Management that the company eliminate people altogether from their stores.
“But how do we do that?”  Management cried.
“Fear not,” said IT (or a $2,000/hour team of consultants from Bain, after a 2-year study), “We can just force people to use Technologeh!”

So now Sainsbury’s has had to re-install checkouts and hire staff — but the Finance / IT / consultant wizards are not dangling from lamp posts along Holborn Street, as would have happened under the reign of World-Emperor Kim.

And more’s the pity, methinks.

My Kinda List

That would be the Top 25 Badass Planes Of All Time (and I especially like their choice of #1).

Now, as with all this kind of geekery, one can argue with the choices (or omissions, e.g. the WWI Fokker D.VII), but it’s still a credible selection.

(Yeah, that’s Ernst Udet in the foreground.)

And I don’t agree with Gen. Spaatz’s characterization of of the B-17, but it’s a minor quibble:  the Flying Fortress was a dandy, any way you look at it.

 

Feel free to add your suggestions — but:  if you do so, you have to say which of the existing 25 you’d drop.  (Mine would be the DC-3/C-47, to make room for the D.VII, for example).

Another Fucking Nanny

In Britishland, there’s a grocery delivery service called OCADO, and just to set this rant up, here’s a customer’s story:

Ocado, the online supermarket, had a suggestion for me recently. I’d got to the point of paying for my weekly groceries when a suggestion popped up on the website page.
‘Swap the products below and you could save 1,216 calories,’ it promised, suggesting I substitute ordinary coconut milk for a reduced-fat version.
It wasn’t the only ‘handy’ tip. I’d need to run for just over two hours, or walk for more than six hours to burn off the calories I’d be consuming should I stick to my original choice, I was reliably informed.
Of course, Ocado isn’t unique. It’s almost impossible to walk down the high street without seeing something suggesting we’re all too fat and need to eat less. Wetherspoons, Pizza Express, Nandos and Wagamama now display calorie counts on their menus.
In May, the Government announced that this scheme would be extended to smaller local restaurants and popular takeaway joints.

And the word “Government” is what triggered me.

Because I think (and I don’t think I’m being overly suspicious here) that with this kind of fucking intrusive software, it’s only a question of time before the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) incorporates snooping software into your household purchases and as with All Things Government, what starts off as a “guideline” somehow always seems to end up “compulsory”.

We all know that Corporate America is only too ready to lick the hands that enslave others, so if HHS (or the poxy CDC — talk about mission creep) decides, For Our Own Good (of course), that we should be hectored into reducing this or that in our diets;  or that (even better) we should be prevented from buying  doubleplusungood products (e.g. cigarettes, booze or Hostess Twinkies) — why, it would be A Good Thing.

Just not for us.  But Visa/MasterCard/Amex/Shylock Inc. would be glad to oblige the Gummint, lest said Gummint do things with laws that take chunks out of the banks’ bottom line.

I’m not ready for that Big Brother shit, and I suspect I’m not alone in this.

And by the way, when I wrote Prime Target  in 2012, I tried to imagine the most outrageous, far-fetched and outlandish government-run data mining scenario possible.  Less than two years later  it was out of date, and the federal alphabet agencies (along with their lickspittles at Google and FaceBook) were strip-mining the most intimate details of people’s lives for their own advantage.

So here’s a little warning to all of these cocksuckers:  the minute I see this shit starting in my private affairs, I’ll quit using the service altogether, no matter what the inconvenience may be.

I also need to start stockpiling cash and other kinds of currency against the day.  Fuckers.