Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Auto-Society

The amateur is dead, long live the crap professional!

Anybody can sing these days and sing in tune. The makers of ITV's X-Factor have allegedly "auto-tuned" the voices of their favorite contestants. This'll give them the edge over contestants they intend to drop. The news has been greeted with dismay in some quarters but weary resignation elsewhere. For some time the pop industry has been considered generally low on talent. Scantily dressed fashion models knock out formulaic jingles that producers then manipulate to give them cred. None, apart from the gullible masses, are taken in. But who cares? The producers make a packet and poor wannabes from the provinces believe they too can be rich and famous.

But it is not only the record industry that is "painting by numbers", airbrushing society. This digital miasma is more widespread then we realise. It enhances our spelling, but not our syntax. It allows us to "Google" rather than read books. The modern car mechanic wouldn't have a clue how to fix your old Morris Minor or Citroen DS. It's all done by computer these days.

Sometimes it's just downright sad: What's the point of a forty something actress or model doing the cover of Vogue or Style Magazine if digital enhancement simply makes her look like a waxwork dummy? And what is the point, really, of buying an album that is effectively created by a computer - and a pretty bland and talentless one at that?

So, where next for the robot society? Well sadly, the publishing industry is already in the advanced stages of terminal decline. And it ain't the computers that caused it. Commercial demands have narrowed the horizons of most authors. You are more likely to get into Waterstones with a big bust than a big idea. And those "literary novelists" that do make it usually conform to a narrow set of socio-economic values. So we can't simply blame it all on computers. Big business has always needed robots. Entrepreneurs need to press the right buttons if they are (numerically) to enhance their bank balances.

Let us pray this miasma doesn't spread to the saintly Westminster! What if politicians started behaving like robots... looking and dressing the same, making absurd promises, breaking them once in power, pretending to care for the opinions of the electorate yet always more in touch with the demands of the City, with corporate greed... always strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage... full of sound and fury... signifying nothing?

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