As an antidote to the post-election triste that UKers may be feeling today, here’s some stuff to make you cross. There’s a certain dramatic irony in the fact that I’m going to have a rant about technology via the internet.
This week some lunatic fringe academic was advocating, apparently earnestly, that schoolchildren sitting exams should be allowed access to the internet. This follows the long-running argument about whether they should be allowed access to books. Back in my day, when dinosaurs were going to be the next big thing, even a cribsheet would get you thrown out of the exam room. When we sat maths, even the books of log tables (yes, I am that old) came from a special sealed store so nobody could sneak notes in.
I’m in two minds about books being allowed, since I can the case for and the case against. But the internet idea? Oh no. For one thing you’ve got that handy Cut and Paste facility. It would be possible to answer questions without actually understanding what you’d written, which is completely missing the point. For another thing, an awful lot of stuff on the internet is just plain wrong. If you don’t have a grasp of the subject, how do you distinguish between what’s correct and what’s arrant bollocks? It’s bad enough when you use a calculator and punch the wrong key. If you don’t have a rough idea of what the sum might be, you’ll never spot any bish that you make.
Next up. Some 20 driving testing stations in the UK now allow testees to use satnav while on test. This came to light in the week when some clever person said that cars now have too many distractions for the driver, and listed satnav alongside mobile phones as a major headache. Now some numbnuts thinks it’s a good idea to encourage new and inexperienced drivers to use it. Barmy. Then there’s the perennial problem that satnav systems, like the internet, are riddled with errors. I can see some poor hapless person on test going the wrong way down a one way street, or having to drive 50 miles out of their way to get back to the test centre.
Lastly Professor Sir Cary Cooper (crazy name, crazy guy) addressed the British Psychological Society this week. He pointed out that British productivity is the second lowest in the G7, partly because we’ve embraced digital technology ‘a bit too enthusiastically.’ A study from Sussex University found that staff given tablets and smartphones ended up doing the equivalent of an extra day’s work a week because they are constantly bombarded with email. As a result they arrive at work tired and stressed rather than relaxed and active. ‘Too many people are simply showing up for work and not getting anything done.’ The wise Professor also said the idea of checking emails on holiday was ‘sick.’ Can’t say I disagree with him there. Mind you if you sat up all night watching the results roll in you’ll be tired and stressed anyway, but there’s no need to make things any worse.