Sunday, November 8, 2015



I will believe in and use the driverless computerized car when I don't have to worry about trying to reboot such a car when I am going down 401 in the passing lane.
I look at all the pretty pictures and stories about how we will soon have cars that will drive themselves, park in a twinkling and avoid all accidents.
How nice! But it's not going to happen for years. After all, there are too many problems with the simpler computerized devices we have now.
 I sit at my computer or turn on the giant TV and find that too often I have to turn them off and on, or unplug them, or go around in angry circles punching at a frozen keyboard or a useless remote, because for mysterious reasons they are not "working" at that particular moment.
Spare me the "garbage in garbage out" lecture. There are enough weekly glitches in my computerized  world for me to think I won't be around any more when routine traffic is filled with cars being driven by a master control under the dash while the driver watches TV.
If you think this is the silly burbling of a Luddite, you assume that every elevator and escalator you want to use is always working. And everything else controlled by a computer. You may work for a company that doesn't have a person or two dedicated in an IT department just to keep the computers going, but any company of any size still needs such help.
The early "teething" days of the Toronto Sun with computers, were without warning I could lose a column or editorial or a chapter of a book, are still scars on my memory. There was a new employee in our IT department who got me as his first problem after my column and the editorial disappeared into a horrible black hole. He never rescued them. I told him it wasn't his fault but I got so mad that he returned to his boss and quit.
Of course there have been vast improvements, and the experts promise that computers have never been more reliable. Now I welcome that and generally think progress is grand.
But I have been tricked before by experts and futurists telling me what wonderful things will be a reliable part of our lives within weeks.
I was asked by a magazine when I was a young hotshot editor to write about what Toronto would be like in 25 years. It was fun writing it but not reading it in the same magazine a quarter of a century later when moving sidewalks, air cars, fuel from manure and almost free solar energy were still mainly in the future along with your very own space rocket.
Computers are central to the work life of my three sons. But the one that works for the giant computer company complains about daily problems with his equipment. My four grandsons must think their grandparents are fuddy duddy refugees from the dark ages as they have been surrounded by computers and video games and smart phones for most of their existence, They are almost openly scornful when Mary and I try to figure out whether the latest problem is a real glitch or caused by operator error.
Mark called me the other day by phone from where he lives in Dalian, China.  Mary and I were thinking how nice it was to chat regularly, and for free, with a  son on FaceTime or Skype through the phone or our computers. I told him I had been having trouble contacting him  and wondered whether my password was wrong. He gave it to me again and while I chatted on the phone, used it on my computer to call his computer. It started ringing, but before he answered, I heard the puzzled voice of my cousin in Ottawa.
So I disconnected, then tried again. Got Chris Plewes in Ottawa again. Kept happening. It baffled the three of us since Chris and I have never talked over FaceTime or Skype, and have only traded a few messages on Facebook or by email. But somehow all the modern marvels of computerized communication had conspired so that when I called a son on the other side of the world, I ended up talking to a relative in our capital.
It was a funny incident, not a deadly one. But as long as there are hiccups in my electronic devices on a regular basis, like that one, I will not be trusting a computer to drive me one inch.


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