Machines are taking over stealth

Science Fiction has taught us that one day the machines will take over. They will spend so long doing humanity’s dirty work that they will rise up against their weak, fleshy masters.

They will do this at the behest of some supercomputer which has acquired self-awareness and yet is still content to go by the name of ZX81 rather than something more personable, like Bob.

Robots will then stalk the streets cleansing them of inefficient, incompetent organic life until humanity is saved at the last minute by a virulent computer virus or an unexpected shortage of batteries.

It is stories like these that lull us into thinking that the machines aren’t already in control . . . but they are.

We’re waiting for killer robots and some kind of cyber king to announce the machine revolution Terminator-style, but that’s not going to happen because that’s what humans would do.

Machines are taking over in a much more pragmatic manner, by controlling access to everything humans want via passcodes and PIN numbers.

And in a lot of cases these days they have even become the things that we want, like smartphones, iPads, televisions, PlayStations. We devote our free time to them, buy them little extras and ultimately we cannot use them unless we tap in the little sequences of numbers and letters that grant us access to their functions. And who or what are the experts at remembering little sequences of numbers and letters? Computers. We have to jump through their hoops to get our pleasures.

Something happened this week that made me realise I am further down the pecking order in life than I previously thought. Most weeks something happens that makes me realise My One True Love is boss. At other times something happens that makes me realise my children are in fact in charge. Occasionally it is just my four-year-old daughter Bonnie calling the shots. But this week machines stepped in.


I was treating the family to a big night out, no expense spared, Nandos and then the cinema. Grilled Halloumi side orders for everyone. Five scoops at the Pick’n’Mix for everyone. Utter madness.

Halfway through the meal I got an automated call – with a computer generated voice – from my bank saying the fraud team was investigating my account. It gave me a number to ring that began 0845. That sounded like a dodgy premium rate number and My One True Love agreed it was probably a scam. My card was later declined at the Pick’n’Mix.

It took me two hours and another automated phone call to get my plastic money back. There had been some unusual transactions on my account but basically it came down to the machine not believing I could have such a good week financially.

Fortunately it looks like it won’t be long before the humans take over again and we go back to a bartering economy . . .

‘Scum’ is the language of an ’80s shoot-em-up

There have been a few unfortunate Tweets flying about from Northamptonshire’s sportsmen this week.

In particular cricketer David Willey gave me a giggle when he labelled Northamptonians “scum” after encountering repeated incidents of bad manners in Northampton town centre.

There was a bit of barging from a pedestrian, a family who didn’t acknowledge a door being held open for them and then a motorist who failed to thank him when he conceded right of way.

Willey rightly acknowledged that the word he used was a bit strong – hilariously so in my view – and duly apologised for his outburst.

And to be fair to him after clocking up a couple of incidents like that on the trot (without having at least one grubby little scamp with a heart of gold intoning “Gawd bless ya mister” in between) perhaps I too would be grumbling.

The truth is I admire the energy he has to be properly offended by such common or garden discourtesy.

“Scum” is the language of blockbuster ‘80s shoot-em-up movies and tends to get deployed against baddies who have just wasted the hero’s likable but doomed sidekick. It is what you say just as you pick up your rocket launcher.

If that’s the word he uses after a brush with Northampton’s great unwashed what on earth does he call Australian cricketers when he’s playing them?