THE image of Bill Gates and his wife Melinda sitting in a cramped shack somewhere in Cape Town, sheepishly listening to the “plight of the poor” on the way to a “Microsoft Government” conference on the foreshore, is somewhat disturbing. Here you have one of the richest men in the world without so much as a personal computer. No Internet, not even Windows XP “the Lexus of software”. No larney network, think about that for a while — this could be rough paradise in a world in which the chintzy metalic
“connected laptop” and hyper-titanium “cross-linked, silicon machines” have outstripped our own human connections, not to mention consciousness.
Do machines think? Have Robots like Bill Gates taken over the world? If Microsoft hadn’t invented the err, computer, it would have invented the computer virus. Come to think of it, perhaps Windows 98 is pre-operating system HIV, while Windows XP is post-mobile HIV, can’t seem to remember when last people believed in a world without computers, a world without people like Bill Gates.
What a pleasure it would be, instead of emailing each other, we would write simple letters with pen and ink. Instead of mobile phones interrupting our patter, we would ignore the “ringing” telephone that would tell us how exactly how urgent or depressing a particular phone call was. Remember the social etiquette associated with landlines?
Nowadays people just drop in uninvited or simply stop calling out of embarresment. The power of one-button dialing and caller-tones has put an end to all that idle chitter chatter one had that passed for intimate and private conversaion. Windows on the other hand has destroyed the desktop, and our memories, and unleashed code kids unable to read and write in English.
Microsoft English and the Encarta Dictionary replaced Oxford and South African English. We are caught in a world in which the super-rich exist alongside shacks. What would I want to tell Bill if I had five pico-seconds of his time? Well it would be this — we need to end the digital divide, stop the knowledge gap that prevents us from communicating with each other because there are not enough libraries, because most of our nations literature is still not accessible online, because we are losing out to the spew of crap that emanates from the USA, that flows in a one-way direction only.
As Brian Eno once said, “the trouble with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.” How, I would want to ask Bill, do we put more Africa into the computer age without destroying something special and unique about ourselves? How do we avoid turning into Microsoft clones and XP idiots? Anyone reading, or is this just a blog for robots?