Lady Barton St Mary and I settled back on the sofa and watched a film called ‘Made in Dagenham’ the other weekend, which contained a song called ‘Green Tambourine.’
“Oh, who sang that?” I enquired.
“I don’t know,” replied Lady Barton St Mary, who, unlike me, isn’t particularly bothered about these things. I was about to reach for my trusty laptop when I thought, ‘No. I’m going to figure it out for myself, like you had to before technology came along.’
Sure enough, by turning my back on instant information and relying on my neurological impulses and intellect, it wasn’t long before I gave up in despair and tried to think of something else; one of the advantages of having a butterfly brain is that this really didn’t take too long.
The following morning, however, the song popped back up in my brain, like a piece of slightly charred toast on one of those do it yourself machines* you find in the dining areas of Mediterranean hotels at breakfast.
I reminded Lady Barton St Mary, who, despite my protestations, picked up her itube adenoid phone and briefly tapped on its surface.
“The Lemon Pipers!” she exclaimed triumphantly.
“Argh! Of course! A one hit wonder! I knew that!”
Lady BSM gave a derisory snort of laughter.
“Oh yeah. Of course you did,” she said, ambling off to make a bacon sandwich.
However, these days, you don’t need to know anything. TechNology has taken care of that. Everybody carries around tiny computers with big memories masquerading as a mobile telecommunications device that can tell you anything. Which means that everybody is an expert on virtually everything, even those regarded as too ill-informed to appear on The Jeremy Kyle Show. All because of a tiny smartarse telephone.
Think about it. These days, if you want to find out about a film, where do you look? Thinking about a holiday? Wondering how to fix your ipod when it freezes?** Want to change the battery in your VW remote key?***
Easy. Google it.
At school, we were often given projects to do. This would invariably mean that the teacher would expect you to go and do some research on something that you regarded as rather dull but was fascinating to the teacher. For example, my geography teacher gave us this project: Gable Roofs in Borehamwood: A history, 1925 – 1974. Or something like that.
In order to complete this task, you would have to go to the library and do your utmost to find at least one book on the subject, but even if such a thing existed, you know that the class swot would have rushed immediately to the library to reserve the only copy. Also, it would have been highly unlikely that you could provide any photographic evidence. That would mean borrowing your dad’s Box Brownie, risking being beaten and robbed of it down Shenley Road. Also, you would have to wait for the photos to be developed at Boots, which could take a week and was very expensive. Plus the fact that the film roll had to be finished, which would mean hanging on until after the summer holidays, when you could separate your blurry snaps of gable ends from pictures of granddad asleep in a deckchair wearing a hanky on his head and his false teeth on his chin.
Nowadays, kids just turn on the laptop, type in gable ends of Borehamwood, get some information and photos and press print. Or more likely, these days, the parents do it so that their kids can spend a little longer on Faceache and Twaddle.
More alarmingly, all those mysteries that one had to search dictionaries and encyclopaedias for can now be found in seconds, as I realised the other week at (almost) voluntary work.
I was teaching a group of ladies. At the end of the session, I set them a task.
“Here’s a challenge for you,” I said, “by next week, find out what a google is.”
As I tidied up my stuff, I could hear a faint clattering noise. I looked up to see ten women tapping away on their adenoid phones.
“It’s a one followed by a hundred zeros,” said one of them.
“Yeah,” agreed another, “and a googleplex is a one followed by a google of zeros,” she added as she wandered out.
“Yes,” I said, deflated that my task had been answered almost dismissively, “but what does that mean?”
She shrugged as she disappeared out of the door. I looked at a couple of other departing learners hopefully. One of them smiled sweetly and said,
“Dunno. What Google says, I s’pose.”
This made me wonder how much information is now kept in computerised hard disks rather than in human brains these days.
How long before you can make it into highly skilled jobs by just using a search engine?
In the future can you imagine going into hospital for an operation and experiencing this?
“Hello, I’m the consultant surgeon. Nothing to worry about, I’ve been on youtube and watched several step by step videos on this procedure on my ipad and it looks like a breeze.”
No doubt this could be followed up by the operation being postponed because the doctor’s forgotten his phone charger.
If you think this isn’t possible, a friend of mine told me about the 14 year old doctor they went to see who asked for their symptoms before typing them into google. Of course, the child medic may have been tweeting. ‘So many sick middle aged grunters – god I’m bored! #givemantibiotics…’
What about politics? Prime Minister’s Question Time?
“I would like to know how the Prime Minister intends to reduce the deficit by imposing such radical austerity measures that have always historically failed!”
“I would like to give the right honourable member an informed but pithy reply, but at present I only have two bars on my moby.”
To be honest, it’s almost certain that we’re being governed by idiot geniuses these days, although some of them already inhabited a virtual world before the World Wide Web existed. It was called independent school****. I know. I googled it.
What I found out from Google:
*Conveyor Toasters, such as the Pantheon CTI, £302.67 excluding VAT.
**Hold ‘Menu’ and ‘Centre’ simultaneously until the Apple icon appears on the screen.
****There are only 2 old Etonians in the present cabinet, but more than half of them spent their secondary education in an independent school.
The Lemon Pipers were a 1960s psychedelic pop band from Oxford, Ohio, known chiefly for their song “Green Tambourine”, which reached No. 1 in the United States in 1968. The song has been credited as being the first bubblegum pop chart-topper.
There are lots of funny cat videos on youtube.
Don’t type in ‘Asians shaving’. It’s a long story.