Digital digressions

Today's digital world seems to have gradually conditioned us to exist in function with numbers. Almost everything is rated and registered numerically. We have identification numbers, account numbers, credit card numbers, code numbers, road numbers, social security numbers, contract numbers, billing numbers, phone and cellular numbers. We are inundated with numbers. The media try to influence us with unconvincing opinion poll percentages regarding our ministers and heads of State who defy the odds in trying to govern us. A numerical order of preference is established of those the Press think should govern us in the future, apparently without ever having learnt anything from their previous disastrous errors of judgement.

When it was once thought that by the nineties everyone would be benefitting from the freedom and technology of having their own private means to fly, we are restricted to our regulated, look-alike, numbered, ground vehicles now full of digital electronic equipment and we must comply to the laws of either crawling along at whatever maximum speed number is permitted, unless we pay the digital toll fee to drive at a faster speed number authorised on the motor ways. There we are digitally warned in advance of traffic jams, road works or digitally measured pollution levels that advise us that we have to reduce speed using a lower gear that will logically (digitally) increase the pollution.

No one bothers to open their car bonnets anymore, because of the unfathomable mystery of digital electronics. When I was young, one could service one's own car quite easily. You only needed a grease gun, a can of oil and a basin to catch the used engine oil. In those days a car had what they quaintly called 'nipples' onto which you would plug your grease gun in order to pump the grease into the working parts and bearings, etc. In certain vintage cars the brakes housed in brake drums were activated by a cable tightened by virtually standing diagonally on the brake pedal with as much weight as possible. When something was 'US', it meant that it was unserviceable. Incredibly it had already reached the end of its lifetime.
There was no upgrading in those days, because most things were built 'to last a life time'. This phrase was often used to promote whatever was built to last, because at that time, the world we now live in, when things are considered old, or out of date, after only two to four years of use, would obviously have been totally inconceivable and considered nightmarishly mad, which perhaps it is.

Thankfully today, in our digital world, there are ironic exceptions to the rule of datedness and upgrading. For example, I have always used Apple computers. One of my Macs is very old by modern standards. It seems immortal.
It has a drive for what were called "floppy disks" now completely obsolete due to their absurdly limited digital content space. It also has a Zip drive, and although still practical, in comparison with USB keys, their content space is also very limited. And this old Mac has a CD drive but it cannot write ('burn') content to CDs. I added a USB card to the Mac to connect a now "old" seven colour printer as well as USB keys, etc. But one has to be careful with the keys. If their capacity is too large for the old Mac, it crashes. It can accommodate modest content size keys, however.
Anyway I keep this old, very slow but ever faithful computer and its heavy monitor, simply because the driver for the printer no longer exists for modern iMacs. And as the results obtained from this printer are very good, there is no reason why I should 'upgrade' it. But this, of course, is also a sign of the times. The constant need or quasi social and professional obligation, if not obsession, to 'upgrade'.  The technical (digital) improvements are realised so rapidly, and often too rapidly (because not enough time can be spent on making sure there are no consequential problems) that one seems to be conditioned into having either a guilt complex or regrets if one fails for whatever reason to purchase the new upgraded digitally improved model after two or three years or so. Then with the new computer one has the duty of upgrading the system for as long as that particular model is regarded as 'valid,' and this also in what seems to be constantly shortened periods of time.

The same applies to automobiles, although more on a four to five year basis, but logically their life span will also be gradually reduced according to digital and environmental developments. The improvements are remarkable, but sometimes one might be tempted to go too far. The new radar devices for example, would drive me balmy, including what could be likened to mini firework displays which are additional, futile digital distractions from actually driving.

To return to the computer. Those who write web-logs (to avoid use of the hateful word) might be interested to know how popular their site is. The page-view counts are thus digitally measured and it's fascinating to note the rising number of viewers in different countries all over the world. There are also sites claiming to be able to digitally grant an order of merit to such sites. I referred to this once before, because most results are absurdly incoherent, and more so as this link no longer leeds anywhere.
Nevertheless many writers of web-logs aspire to reach the top number one. Naturally it would be an illusion, even if one believed that these assessments make sense. For today how long will one remain number one before sadly sinking into the abyss of multiple figures once again? A few hours? Can one seriously regard such assessments (which never correspond with each other) as valid and reliable measures of any originality, talent or art? The illusion of short term fame determined by morons.
Through the history of civilisation, rare is it when art has been accurately assessed for its real aesthetic value during the period when it was actually created. For despite technology we still have to contend with the imperfections of immutable human nature.

Meanwhile the digital seconds of our lives tick by inexorably. It's probable that digital technology could perfect a means whereby our physical condition and subsequent life-span could be approximately determined. For those digitally conditioned or perverse enough to be so curious, individual life duration watches could be made available to be worn so that one could actually vision their life time digitally dwindling away. However, nature always has the last word, which has to include human nature, and like nature herself, the mechanism of the universe is subject to its nucleus of incredibly advanced, ever evolving, subtle mathematics, which would make our fabulous era of digital electronic technology seem too rigid, and relatively insignificant in any case.

Text and images © Mirino. October, 2014

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