Self-evident truths in the information age.

The men who framed the American Declaration of Independence understood the self-evident truths of the rights they were claiming.  An American black of the time, labouring under the overseer’s whip in the cotton fields of the American south would have considered them be neither truths nor self-evident. Your perception of truths today still depends on your ABC (awareness, bias and context).

It is like what software developers call ‘user friendly.’  A programmer once noted that user-friendly software is a ghost.  It is something that everyone talks about but nobody has seen.  An even more dangerous word is ‘intuitive.’   Whether something is intuitive or not depends entirely on your ABC.  And we have never seen a programmer with the same ABC as a normal user.

Today’s television is a great example of this problem.  Take your average wide-screen, high-definition, surround sound system with 800 cable or satellite channels from which to choose.  Thank goodness the time on the personal video recorder is down loaded by the cable or satellite company.  It would never do to have those machines always flashing ’12:00’ at you.  And have you ever tried to reduce the steps required to switch from watching an on-air program to watching a DVD to less than 12 individual steps?

If American Idol was not available on 54 of those 800 channels, people would never find the program they want to watch.  Just the mechanics of using the channel guide can leave an adult viewer in a severe hysterical episode.  The manufacturers of these systems are not allowed to provide a 12-year old with each system they deliver.

Mind you, all the 12-year olds are busy programming iPods for their elders who think it is cool to have all their music at their fingertips—as long as they do not care in which order it plays.

And the adult penchant for Blackberries is almost without understanding.  How can any adult want to keyboard with their thumb nails?  We got an e-mail from someone’s Blackberry the other day that read like a very serious and long sneeze.  The only appropriate response was Gesundheit.

With the growing involvement of computer chips in our daily life, you have to live with them.  The alternative is no fun.  An elderly lady once said that the Eskimos had the best idea as they were reported to simply putting their elderly on an ice flow after an appropriate farewell party.  With global warming advancing as it is, this might not be today’s solution.  No doubt the computer people have already come up with something.

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Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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