The real computer programme

The machine may look innocent but that is only to fool you


Suresh Menon | March 2, 2012

For years we worried about computers taking over the world. Science fiction writers made a fortune out of our fears, the more daring of them even extending the argument to salt shakers and bedside lamps taking over the world. And then it happened. They took over the world; the computers, I mean, not the salt shakers, although the one on my table has been staring at me meaningfully in the past month or so.

Computers book our airline tickets, send us books, maintain our appointments file, exchange photographs with other computers, all the while leading us to believe that they have made life easier for us. This is the smart part of their plan. They haven’t made life easier, merely ensured that we don’t meet other human beings and plan a revolution against the computer-controlled world.

I was at an airline office recently attempting to book a ticket when the clerk said, “Why don’t you book it online?” I thought he was being cute till I discovered that he had lost the basic skill required to book a ticket manually. This is how computers are relieving us of our skills. Have you tried telling a youngster who is doing the job to put himself through school at one of our fast food outlets that you don’t need so much mayo with the burgher and asked how much less would you have to pay if instead of the two cups of coffee you were entitled to you had only one?

Things immediately come to a standstill. The manager is called, and he calls the governor and doubtless the governor gets onto his hotline and checks with the president. And all because the computers have sucked away from us the ability to do simple arithmetic.

The question asked in third grade math: “Should I multiply or divide, add or subtract?” is now being asked by grown men in moustaches and even some grown women with a suggestion of a moustache. That is how dependant we have become on computers, and that is part of their plan.

One day soon, we will wake up to find computers pressing buttons on us just to ensure we get our daily exercise and keep our minds focussed on making smaller and better computers which can rule the world more subtly and with less effort. We will be forced to build a better machine while the existing ones party and network and discuss how they spent the previous weekend.

But it isn’t just computers. I am told that the following inventions are almost ready for our use:
1. Books that can be used as telephones: As mobile phones get more sophisticated, there will be a ‘back-to-the-roots’ movement. Rather than reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace on your phone (which, frankly, anyone below the age of 15 can do these days), you will be able to speak into Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and say hello to your folks in another continent.

2. GPS: The new GPS will not merely tell you to turn right or left – it will actually go out and do your job so you can sit at home and watch TV. A wedding to attend? A friend to visit? A theatre performance to take in? You can be at home watching re-runs of Seinfeld while your GPS turns left or right and marks your presence at these unmissable events. Medium size for adults and large economy size for children who ought to be in school.

3. Traffic Jam Dissipator: Cars are likely to be fitted with the swear-generator which is useful for the times when another vehicle overtakes you from the wrong side or tries to squeeze past you into a parking space. You merely switch on the device and relax while it curses fluently in four languages, shouts and screams at the offender and asks him to attempt physically impossible postures.

4. Movie Sensor: You can watch movies, you can hear them, but you can’t smell anything. For that authentic movie experience, this is the next stage in the evolution. Of course, if the script calls for a tanker to blow up and break up into pieces over a marshy land with the bodies of rotting animals on it, it might not prove very popular.




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