For many people there is nothing more frustrating than the way in which the personal involvement of, well, people, has been replaced by digital. The world, in short, is becoming automatic, and it probably won’t be long before we can feel a little unwell, sit in front of our computer, be told what is wrong and have a pill forced into our mouth or an injection pushed into an arm, all via a set of digital decisions.
Once such thoughts take hold there is seemingly no end to the areas of life in which those annoying, expensive, and contrary very much non-digital human beings can be pushed out of the way. We’re already told by computer that we were driving at 35mph in a 30mph speed limit. The machine clicks the speed, another system issues the notice, another recognises the payment of the fine, and another puts the three points on the licence.
Move on from there, and all other offences can be dealt with in the same way. The central justice computer announces you have been accused of murder, a second system tells you that you have been tried by computer and found guilty, and a third locks the doors of your house so you can’t get out. A small food parcel is put through the letter box (by machine) each day until 30 years later you are let out, probably only to find that civilisation has long since gone.
It all seems fairly horrible – or if you prefer “utterly and extremely frightening” – but at least some people are starting to fight back.
For it appears that there is a new game in town which relates to writing ludicrous reviews of stupid products on Amazon.
Take for example the Tuscan Dairy Whole Vitamin D Milk which has been advertised for a while on the website. Not only does it have 1890 reviews but it also has over 100 questions submitted, which people then answer.
For example, one person wrote in and said
I see that they sell “Used & New from: $45.00” – How can they sell “Used” Milk? Used as a car wax? Used as a paint thinner, or… something else?
In another example a reader wrote in and said
If I spill it, can I cry?
And the answer was provided
If you do it is best to cry either next to it or below it. Crying over it is useless.
Readers can then vote on the helpfulness of this answer. In this case 292 people found it helpful.
One person wrote a 60 line poem about the product which got a wide range of positive commentaries (it is actually extremely well crafted and very droll).
But of course some comments are shorter such as:
Be careful, there is no warning on the label, but this product severely damaged my iPhone when I immersed it.
There are many such commentaries and it seems that entire sub-cultures arise which revolve around certain products, undermining the products credibility, while giving lots of people a laugh and allowing a large number of individuals with incredibly boring jobs to sit at their computers pretending to work while actually doing nothing of the kind.
Take for example the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. This has now become so popular that it has its own link to save you going to the trouble of finding it on Amazon: bit.ly/bananareview
There you will find 3682 positive reviews and one review which over 57,000 (yes 57 thousand) people found positive and helpful. Although elsewhere there is the complaint that it only works with right curved bananas.
Eventually even the (normally rather serious) New Scientist magazine picked up on this, pointing out that one reviewer claimed the product “saved my marriage” while another said “What can I say about the 571B banana slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin or the iPhone.”
Personally I think it is quite wonderful that people are beginning to strike back against these totally automated and (obviously) utterly unchecked systems, and have in effect taken them over.
And just to round this off let me offer you this – again from New Scientist which found for us another Amazon product, a book called “How to Avoid Big Ships”, which makes me think that the people having fun are not only the reviewers but also the actual retailers. Thus raising the possibility that a lot of stuff on Amazon doesn’t actually exist at all.
So person A has a laugh by inventing the product and Person B has a laugh by reviewing it. Everyone’s having fun.
Here’s one review of the book. “As the father of two teenagers I found this book invaluable. I’m sure other parents here can empathize when I say I shudder at the thought of the increasing influence and presence of huge ships in the lives of my children.”
Suddenly I feel the world has become a better place, while resting secure that by and large neither storage nor removal is done by digital machines.