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man and machine February 13, 2008

Posted by john wright in Uncategorized.
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So there I was, driving back in my Peugeot 207 hire car on the Woodhead pass between Sheffield and Manchester, having just been to an enlightening RSP Repositories event in Sheffield Hallam University (where, incidentally, the library provides water fountains on each floor).

Suddenly a harsh beeping sound is emitted from somewhere on the dashboard. Having lost control of the car temporarily I recover myself and look across to the central display panel to where the temperature gauge is flashing: 2 degrees C: RISK OF ICE!

Now, is it me or is this another example of the world having gone mad? Have computers seen a gap in the market and sought to take over the area formerly referred to as ‘common sense’. When I cross the road should I have a device installed upon my person which beeps and says ‘Risk of being run over by a lorry’. Should the warning I received in my trusty Peugeot have been preceded by another warning which said ‘Risk of being distracted by the forthcoming warning to the extent that you might crash’?

The previous week I was in contact with far more ice and indeed snow in the Cairngorms, renewing my relationship with ‘the great outdoors’. I had a great time walking up hills, along coasts and through woods. There were a couple of notable bird sightings including capercaillie and crested tit, but the elusive ptarmigan proved to be far too…well, elusive.

“I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.” Umberto Eco