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Technology and the winding English Country Lane

October 16, 2010

DSCN0583.JPG About a month ago I indulged myself in an upgrade to an iPhone from the trusty Blackberry and also the purchase of a sat nav. The latter, christened Niles for reasons too complex to explain here is proving an interesting travel companion. I’ve got through the point of taking pleasure in defying its instructions and I’ve now moved on to manipulating its configuration. I had to drive down to Somerset today to pick up a leather arm chair that was in for repair. A real craftsman by the way, he refused to do what I asked him to do and instead did what I should have asked him to do.

Back to Niles however; by setting the fuel consumption figures to favour minor roads and setting the low fuel consumption option I ended up being taken on a wonderful 60 mile journey through narrow country lanes (see photographs) and switchback narrow passage ways through villages of bath stone perched on the side of hills. Through the backstreets of Bradford on Avon, via Temple Cloud to Compton Marting, Churchill and finally to Banwell. The Mendips formed the background to the journey and autumn colours are creeping through in the foliage. On the way back a spectacular rainbow formed a backdrop to Silbury Hill, the low light of a late afternoon lighting up the landscape to a background of black storm clouds.

DSCN0584.JPG The Good Beer Guide Applet on the iPhone directed me to a truly wonderful pub (a return is already planned). A dozen beers, all gravity fed and fresh food including beef from the adjacent organic farm. A basic lunch eaten in the orchard on the hill at the back of the pub was a delight. I worked through an old Guardian Cross word (found on the floor of the car) while monitoring Heineken Cup Scores on the iPhone. From there to the Oak Woods just west of cheddar gorge and then a route back that matched the route out for interest. Through the journey I had Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch on the iPod as a companion.

Its how technology should be used, to augment human intelligence and enjoyment. It is not all about efficiency, its also about the deliberate introduction of inefficient parameters to allow for serendipitous discovery. When I drove my first ever car (a bright yellow Fiat) through these lanes the best you could hope for was to constantly stop to use a map, keg beer and pub food that would hardly grace the worst greasy spoon cafe. Early mobile phones and sat navs were for people who wanted toys, they simply took too much effort. Now its seamless, one uses the tools without really thinking about them, which means they are useful. Would that all technology usage recognised the need to focus on augmentation of human needs rather than the fetishistic attempt to replace human capability.

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