The (Saturday 26th) March of the Machines


It's official. The Matrix, Terminator and a whole slew of lesser sci-fi franchises all got it right: the machines really are taking over. How do we know? Because they've stolen something precious from us humans: the right to choose how we set our clocks.

This has all happened very suddenly. We're now surrounded by "smart" devices, whether it's our phones, radio alarms, ovens, tablet computers or TVs, and these bastards can all tell the time by themselves. We never need to set them or correct them anymore, and I think we're unwise to give up control like this to our future overlords. This holiday weekend has been a perfect case in point. In the UK, to use the time-honoured phrase, the clocks went forward, just as correspondingly in six months' time on the third Saturday night/Sunday morning of October they'll go back an hour again. (Technically it's the shift between Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time, or as it's called in the US, Daylight Saving Time). And this Spring, just like the last few years, there's been a steadily creeping phenomenon in which the whole action has been taken out of our hands. Now the computers are setting the time for us, and we just blithely get on with our business, briefly stopping to think "Oh, it's eleven already is it? Ok then. Whatever." 

I'm not talking ancient history here. We humans still had control over this in the Noughties: we'd get regular reminders that we needed to adjust all our timepieces, from newspaper editorials to family members to TV continuity announcers. And we needed them! Now when we get these little nudges, it's just a quaint throwback to the past. I don't know about you but I miss things how they used to be. There was something homely and communal about the thought of us all having to remember: of needing to make a shared adjustment together to fit with the seasons. On two Sunday mornings a year you'd stumble out of bed and shuffle downstairs, bleary-eyed and yawning, on the way to making the first cup of tea of the day, and after a random amount of time then it would hit you: you'd forgotten to change whichever clock or watch you were looking at, and now you'd suddenly gained or lost a whole hour of your life. It didn't matter which. Either way, you'd get a momentary magical frisson of time travel. Computers have stolen that feeling from us. I'm not trying to over-dramatise this but, seriously, it is the closest any of us would ever get to being Marty McFly.

And now, thanks to the machines, all those moments have been lost. Like tears in the rain...



Jon HarveyComment