My computer is being especially needy today. As soon as I opened a blank document ready to type today’s Dollop, a notification popped up on my screen declaring that windows had successfully updated. Great news, I thought, what a fantastic start to the day. Boyd up by this knowledge, I began to type today’s Dollop, but before I’d got halfway through the first sentence, I was interrupted again by another notification. This time it was telling me that Intel had successfully installed an update. My goodness, this day just gets better and better. I attempted to finish my first sentence, but my concentration was broken once again by another notification, suggesting that I might like to tell Windows what my favourite football team is, so that I can receive updates about them throughout the day.
I don’t have much time to write today’s Dollop, as we are about to start one of our singing weekends, and I could do without these interruptions. I’m not sure if it’s really all that necessary for me to know that Windows and Intel have been updated. I never notice an actual improvement whenever these updates are installed, the computer doesn’t seem to run any quicker. In fact, the only noticeable difference seems to be that, with each update, I get more pointless notifications. And now I’m getting unwanted notifications asking me to provide it with information so that it can essentially give my computer permission to bug me with even more notifications. All I want to do is write the creative masterpiece that I was just about to write, before I was railroaded by my computer, which has completely distractied me from my original genius idea, meaning that you’ve now got to read this drivel instead.
These constant computer interruptions are probably responsible for thousands of unwritten or incomplete literary and artistic masterpieces that will never see the light of day, all because the writer’s concentration has been broken by Windows asking them to choose what their favourite breakfast cereals are, so that they can be instantly notified whenever a supermarket has a special offer on one of them. If Windows had been around a few hundred years ago, I wonder how many of our most celebrated literary works would have been affected. Imagine how different things might have been if Wordsworth had to put up with flashing Windows notifications while he was trying to write his poetry.
“Right, OK, to work. Oo, I’ve got it. I wondered lonely as a …”
“What the hell?!”
“The current temperature in Cockamouth is 54 degrees Fahrenheit.”
“Go away you bloody thing, I’m trying to write. OK, so, where was I. I wondered lonely as a … er … Oh, now what was it? Er … Hmm … Well, it’ll just have to be I wondered lonely as a lonely person. That’ll do I suppose. So … I wondered lonely as a lonely person, that …”
“You are currently using the default screensaver. Why not choose your own from our extensive list, here?”
“Because I’m trying to … Oh what the hell. Oo, I like that one with the clouds and the hills and the daffodils. Very nice. Hang on, that’s it. I wondered lonely as a cloud that floats on …”
“Oh for goodness sake, what is it now?”
“Here at Microsoft, we want your Windows experience to feel uniquely You, which is why we’re always looking for ways of personalising your computer. Fun Suggestion: we could rename your Microsoft Word desktop icon to say, Microsoft Wordsworth. Would you like me to make the change for you?”
“No I bloody well wouldn’t! Now, just let me write this bloody poem! I wondered lonely as a …”
“Facebook notification: Samuel Coleridge has updated his mood status to “Romantic.”
Our technology is apparently getting smarter, yet I would argue that as it does so, it gets more and more needy, demanding more and more information from us, like an insistent child incessantly asking “why?” And nowadays these notifications are much more difficult to ignore, as Windows no longer delivers it’s messages in its former clinical, computer-speak, it’s gone all matey now, and there’s a female voice calling herself Cortana who’s asking all these questions and delivering all these messages. With Cortana on Windows and Siri on Apple, it’s getting harder to ignore these various notifications, as it now feels as if your ignoring is a personal snub. There have been times when I’ve been a bit tired and one of these voices has suddenly started chatting to me, and I’ve felt obliged to engage in conversation with it, not wanting to be impolite, before remembering that it doesn’t have feelings. But Apple and Microsoft and all these other companies are making it progressively difficult as they drag you into their crazy world: these human sounding personal assistants have jokey responses to questions programmed into them, and at times give sarcastic remarks; they refer to themselves as “I” and “me”; they take mock offence if you insult them; they keep calling you by your name; they use phrases like, “let me think about that,” and, “I’m sorry,” if it can’t find what you’re asking for straight away.
Anyway, must dash. Cortana has just told me about an exciting offer on Muesli at Sainsbury’s. I take it all back; this technology is great.