This is a lovely techno koan ”I was…

This is a lovely techno-koan:

”I was struck last week when I saw a colleague pecking away, very quickly, with two fingers on his computer keyboard.  I asked him about it and he told me that he had recently taken a course where he had learned to touch type.  The course had been very good and he had learned to type at 30 words pre minute.  But with his two finger pecking he typed at 60 words per minute. His plan was to continue to practice his touch typing, until it was fast enough to switch over.  Of course if he switched over now, he would be touch typing even faster, sooner, but at the cost of the learning curve frustration.”

And if my blogging chum had left it there it would’ve been great. But he wouldn’t let it lie, and so the next sentence is of the dreaded ‘And you know, that’s a little bit like Jesus isn’t? ’variety. You can read the whole thing if you follow the link below.

Now, I’m aiming his koan squarely at a Mancunian author of my acquaintance who hasn’t moved on from the ‘smartphone-stabby-stabby-grunt’ stage. Typical. Young people, eh. Perhaps there’s a kind of Pareto thing going on, where if you invest only 20% of the 20% you need to get to the 80% of the lovely usability of the device–because you can’t be bothered and you’re in a rush and you need to just use it and you’re not a geek–then you remain stuck in the stabby grunt frustration, irritation, ‘bloody stupid thing’ phase. No discipline, no gumption, no stick at it no deferred reward, More importantly perhaps, I say pretentiously and portentously, we can observe another rule of what Neil Postman calls ‘Technopoly’:

Battram’s 6th Law of Technology: the smarter the phone, the dumber the user can be until something bad happens.

I read somewhere recently of the incredulous response of a young woman, asked what she would do if she had an emergency and her mobile wouldn’t work. What do you mean if my mobile won’t work? She could no more comprehend that possibility than she could the idea that the sun might not rise. Powerful ju-ju.

Apple’s Siri personal assistant technology, nearly working and available now, though officially still ‘in beta’, promises Jeeves in your phone. But what happens when Jeeves isn’t there?

JEEVES IN THE OFFING
Bertie is in trouble when Jeeves goes on holiday. 
On a trip to Brinkley Court, Bertie finds himself 
surrounded by former fiancees and old adversaries. 
Bertie looks set for a troublesome time…

Siri being ‘in beta’ is unusual for Apple, unlike Google who keep most of their applications in beta long after they have been released and sorted out. What does this portend? My guess is that the betaness of Siri is more than just a Google-style early unfinished release. I think Apple are acknowledging that this sort of application can only be developed in a co-evolutionary loop with its users. So now we have an application that assumes another characteristic of all living systems – a ‘structural coupling’ as Maturana might term it, an autopoietic relationship.

And you know, isn’t ‘in beta’ a little bit like life? (Do not say the ‘J’ word, Ed) Living systems, living things, life -always unfinished, always learning, changing, striving and such…

http://neilcrofts.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/the-lesson-of-the-keyboard/

http://www4.hmc.edu:8001/humanities/beckman/hum1/Postman.htm

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?an=Neil+Postman&bt.x=87&bt.y=17&sts=t&tn=Technopoly

http://www.pgwodehousebooks.com/jeeves-wooster2.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autopoiesis

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