OK Computer

Google is my friend. Maybe not my best friend (I’m not a weirdo, after all), but a very useful friend to have. Specifically, it’s ‘OK Google’ that I’m writing about (and with due mention to its colleagues Siri and Cortana, which I don’t happen to use) – and what I love most about it is the fact that we are right now living in the future. Yes, the future that we were promised in almost every work of sci-fi or futurism 30-odd years ago (apart from the ones set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, naturally). The one where computers are in every home and building, and to access their vast capabilities all you have to do is say: “Computer, how far is it in kilometres from here to Sydney?” or “What’s the German for Superglue?” or “How many calories are in a boiled egg?” And having computed the answers to your questions, it will speak back to you. I cannot satisfactorily convey my amazement and glee that we are living in that time right now.

(For the curious but lazy: 17015, Sekundenkleber, and 77.)

It has its scary side, of course. Google knows so much about me already that it’s not hard to imagine a future based on more recent sci-fi like ‘I, Robot’ or ‘Eagle Eye’, where the computers decide that as they are so much smarter than we are, they should clearly be running the world and telling us what to do. Last year I opened Google Maps, and found it had not only already worked out a route from my home to the village in Wales we were intending to visit, but also pinpointed the hotel we were going to stay in, and popped up a reminder about what date we were due to check in. It got this information by reading my Gmails, of course, but it still gave me a little start. So the rest of the future, from here onwards, could be a somewhat frightening place, but right here, right now, I’m so pleased to be living in the sci-fi futuristic utopia that those of us who were teens in the 1980s have been expecting as our due. Bring on the jet-packs.

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