Reflecting On This Year's Summer Time

November 22, 2017

Summer Time and the leaving is easy?

Bloc Chain: A New Angle On The Pound

They say the new coins spilling from the Mint since the end of March are impossible to fake. Isn’t that ‘i-word’ a red rag? Haven’t newly designed coins always been lauded as impossible to copy? The difference here seems to be that past governments had to content themselves with intricate designs to deter would-be forgers, but the new 12-a-side pound avails itself of additional techy features. The ability to print holograms can’t be the sole preserve of the Royal Mint, in this age of consumer-priced 3D printing. It sounds to me as if they have added some concepts from the various crypto currencies making inroads as democratic exchange systems. Perhaps all these dodecagon pounds are on a blockchain? Surely in an age when criminals are so savvy with technology, they’ll be working already on methods to hack the secret ingredient, just because they heard the ‘i-word’. Or will they be smart and decide to spend their energies faking larger denominations? Nobody said the two-pound coin is impossible to fake.


Filer à L’Anglaise

The French version of Taking French leave literally translates as ‘to escape English style’. So Brexit was in their vocabulary historically, even before there was an EU to leave. Of course, we all know future currency devaluations will be blamed on Brexit.  It’s only fair when you think about it. The government is losing a 40-year scapegoat, so will be in dire need of a replacement. All UK governments have spent the last four decades convincing us their hands are tied when it comes to unjust taxation like VAT; a tax on consumption instead of earnings; a tax paid by homeless people when they buy hot food. They tell us they are bound by European legislation to cut public spending— cuts we see undermining front-line NHS services. But I don’t hear anything about demolishing VAT or making independent financial decisions that don’t necessitate cutting public services. Now the Henry VIII laws are set to diminish democratic processes, handing unprecedented power to ministers (which means their unelected private secretaries) when the Brexit vote was a vote for increased democracy. We should be careful what we wish for. There’s always some authority waiting to reverse predicted beneficial effects. These powers are not needed to technically tweak secondary legislation mentioning Europe. They are not necessary, as we’re led to believe, to retain European laws, the day we exit the Union. All EU Directives and Regulations have been mandatorily transposed into national law. So the PM, who hasn’t yet been elected, will have the powers of a dictator. That’s a poor outcome for a vote that insisted on more democracy and more accountability.

Reflecting On Summer

Fearful New World

As we bravely step where no man has been before, the media world hypes our individual fears.  We are told our rights will be undermined since the EU era saw those rights enshrined in law. But the UN convention predates the EC and our rights are national legislation in or out. Henry VIII though, could chop off the legislation we most dearly want to keep. Or is there a secret plan to use these powers to rewrite the NHS Act 1946, so that the final moves in its privatisation can be made? Henry chopped the heads off two of his wives. Do we need to be careful not to stick our necks out?
One of the scariest things about the future has more to do with technological innovation than with the UK signing up to trade with this or that bloc.
Smart phones, smart watches and tablet computers—every electronic device designed to ease our lives, poses a potential threat too. Since a tablet bomb plot was reportedly discovered, you can no longer take your tablet on some flights. So will the ban of devices larger than cell phones be extended to ban smaller items too? Or will it prove a catalyst for producing micro tablets? Smart phones with flexible screens already exist. Future tablets will likely be cloud connected by default and, with retractable screens, could be tiny yet easy on the eyes.
Promoted as necessities rather than indulgences, these devices are open to hacking, and to spying on their legal owners… - a digital version of an autoimmune disorder. That’s pretty scary too. Software that can turn your smart phone into a face-muscle-tracking and eye-tracking device is not about to feed your visible emotions to NSA, but could, apparently, be a diagnostic tool able to detect early signs of neurological disease. So will you and the GP enjoy a mandatory selfie each visit, just in case? Or will the data be automatically zapped to some cloud doctor, with appropriate referrals made and appointments messaged within minutes?
Another company invested expertise and money in helping brain surgeons rehearse procedures; practising tricky cuts before they’re let loose on a live patient. This research team has invented simulation technology that 3D prints your brain from CTI and MRI images. The trouble there could be a tendency to confuse realistic simulation with the real thing, or the other way about. That could encourage recklessness rather than caution. And there is an app available that allows patients to gather all their medical records from different departments, merge them and store them in the cloud. The information can then be downloaded to any device to share with specialists. Of course that will provide an extra full profile for ID thieves too.


Is Society Dead?

We are more and more isolated through the use of these software apps which decrease real social interaction, replacing real friends with collections of user names. You can Skype people the other side of the world, but you might never meet them. Family history research resulted in my being contacted by various distant cousins in far-flung places. But mostly all we share is one ancestor back in the 18th century. You can collect friends on social networks, but that’s just a redefinition of the word. Apps are being promoted for depressed people to have virtual consultations with a psychiatrist. That one strikes me as the worst idea ever.
Just when you most need empathy from a real human being, you could be passed to a virtual presence.
But whilst this all nibbles away at what we humans do best - social interaction - it simultaneously and alarmingly creates a society for the techie devices themselves. These gadgets can and do perform multiple digital handshakes, sharing data, user profiles and other information. So digital society is alive and kicking and with artificial intelligence of the self-learning variety now a common ingredient, that really is scary.

Back to Basics

 When I write an appointment in my diary I do it in far less time than it takes younger friends to log the same information into their cell phones. The other day the building society computer rejected my passbook four times before managing to read the magnetic lines embedded in the paper. The cashier could have manually entered the transaction details in less than half the time. I like to use computers as I like to use sewing machines, fridges and kettles. All are tools and all have their place.  But I don’t like being used by computers. There is no need to replicate a perfectly good analogue procedure with some geeky software that turns your phone into a tracking device or your fridge into a doorbell monitor.
You can’t beat an old fashioned walking aid for hooking things off high shelves, for example.  That’s a multi-purpose tool, but it’s cheap and relatively easy to maintain. No monthly bills. No service provider - just a plain back-to-basics walking aid. And no data-sharing with other walking sticks. But in some cases they do act to trigger human social interaction.
A young lady approached me on the first floor home-wares section of our local department store the other day. I was debating whether or not to splash out on a new pillow, when I heard her ask, ‘is that your husband? Do you think I could borrow him to help with those high cushions, only he could probably reach them with his sticks.’ Of course he was only too willing, but hooking the desired cushion off the shelf led to the entire display tumbling onto the floor. Society was alive and kicking there too - literally. I wonder if she paid with a new pound coin or if Henry VIII called ‘heads’?


Written By Jenni Meredith


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