Saturday, 13 December 2008

In Which Computers Got It All Right

“A minnow a minnow, I have him by the nose” exclaims Jeremy Fisher in Beatrix Potter’s story for children, and I feel that she is saying something really relevant for today too. In fact ‘Settlers’, an old ‘God’ style game where you control the fate of a race that has lost its home also has a very good point too. We are minnows firmly caught by the nose that believe we are gods in control of everything around us. When I started writing this I thought it was going to be a Henry the fifth style pep talk, but then cynicism kicked in and I realized that the human race couldn’t care less about pep talks unless they’re in Disney films.
The fact is that the more I look at the planet around us, the more convinced I am that we are treating it like one of the many management games available on the PC. You are put in control of a group of people, country, planet etc. and then the game gets steadily more and more difficult, throwing different and varied challenges in your direction until ultimately you are totally destroyed. The problem with a lot of the management games available is that people get bored of being good and then start to destroy things: even taking delight in releasing Godzilla or a couple of well placed tornados right in the middle of the heaving metropolis to watch the skyscrapers burn and the people run around like ants with their nest on fire. It would seem that we have got to the stage of boredom where this has happened to humanity. Those in charge have got bored of leading, having power and being responsible: so now it’s all about sex, drugs, rock and roll and making as much money as you can in the least amount of time. In a rather stereotypical cliché, let’s quote Nirvana “It’s better to burn out than to just fade away”.
Let’s face it. We have the technology to make electric cars, we have the means to end world hunger, everyone could live together in peace, but we can’t be bothered. It’s too much like effort. Even the web-pages where you only have to give one click to give some child somewhere food for one day without even filling in any forms get half heartedly clicked once and then totally forgotten. People are far more interested in sending on a chain letter promising them the best sex they’ve ever had rather than feeding someone going hungry. Think about it. How many times in the last month have you sent an e-mail on because it promised you your wish come true, or because apparently AOL or Bill Gates are going to bother to track an e-mail all round the world and mystically pay you a couple of hundred quid without having your bank details or your real name? Sex fairy, wish come true, or…
The other day, parked outside the school I was working in until recently, I had paid for a couple of hours but my student had cancelled the lesson at the last minute. So I went to give my meter ticket to someone else. I wasn’t going to use it, and thought that perhaps someone else could take advantage of it. I don’t think I look particularly like a serial killer, or like I have leprosy, or even like I’m dangerous. In fact I was in a semi suit (without tie admittedly) and had a briefcase and was armed with my most charming of boyish grins. I spoke to three people: one of whom ignored me, another drove off, and the third person took some convincing to make them believe I was being honest. Obviously anyone giving something away must have an ulterior motive, as they couldn’t possibly be genuine. When giving this parking ticket away I was even told off by an elderly woman whose words went along the lines of ‘keep acting like that and you’ll end up stabbed and in a gutter’. For giving away a parking ticket.
I’m waiting for the big cursor in the sky to come down, pluck me up in true Black And White style and offer me as a sacrifice, or to see a big ‘Game Over’ flashing up in the sky one of these days, and the cosmic joke will all be over; If this isn’t a game then the reality of the situation is far, far worse than any games company could ever have believed.