Brave New World

A little computer talk, for just a sec.

Before my son built me this new toy, I was coddling my old laptop. I had a fan constantly on, sucking hot air out. I kept the hard drive as clean as I could and my eye on any number of meters.

And at some point, I got tired of the CPU and memory drag that my go-to browsers always, always evolved toward, and couldn’t help noticing that the default browser in Windows 10, Microsoft Edge, was lean and mean. Lightning fast. Kind of clunky and with bugs that I’ve accepted will never go away; it has issues with certain URLs, for example.

But it’s like getting a boost in my broadband, so I’ve stuck with it. OK. Enough about the dumb browser.

Except that I get a default headline page when I open a new tab, something I haven’t changed, and while I rarely look at it, I can’t help it sometimes. This is something Microsoft has generated, too, so I have no idea if the stories I see are also popping up wherever you find news.

And while it seems OK as far as getting top stories in front of my eyes, it’s also a fabulous example of the lurid click bait we see everywhere else. Stories from the Washington Post are paired with the You won’t BELIEVE what happened next! crap we all see on Facebook, and sponsored stories are barely identified as such.

One that pops up constantly never fails to get my head shaking. If you own a computer, you have to play this game!

I’m thinking a human being didn’t come close to writing that headline. If you own a computer? Does Discount Tire run ads that begin, If you own a car?

Not that this is, um, news. But it serves as a reminder to me, as if I needed one, that the modern world is mostly run by algorithms.


In other news, I dropped my phone. I always drop my phone.

There are other examples of my carelessness or clumsiness. They aren’t striking, or excessive. I tend to burn myself in the kitchen about once a month, just for one. But I’m pretty cavalier about a device that is almost always the most valuable thing I carry, and I’m guessing that’s less inattention than my phone’s case.

My son gave it to me, not long after I got this latest iteration of iPhone. That sleek, lightweight, gleaming phone was admired only briefly before I locked that sucker up tight. This is a case made for slick fingers. I could toss this $700 phone across the room and feel pretty confident.

So it was sitting pretty casually in my pocket yesterday when I got out of the car, and then gravity got involved and it landed face down on the asphalt of a parking lot. The screen partially shattered, as will happen.

Except it wasn’t the screen. It was a piece of glass in front of the screen, which is why I suspect I get so reckless.

And we have another example of our world, and what it takes to stay as safe as possible. An industrial-strength phone case. Dual authentication whenever possible. Passwords that run around 20 characters or so and are generated by a password manager, unknown and unremembered by me. Awareness that the problem isn’t fake news but gullible people, clapping like crazy so that Tinkerbell will live.

Clapping does nothing, you know. She’s always going to pull through.

But people clap, and people think the picture will change if you press “Like,” and people voted for the loud orange man because he’d get rid of that awful Obamacare but let them keep their Affordable Care Act insurance.

And I guess enough of them think, hey, I own a computer. I have to play this game! Go ahead. We’re all playing the game these days, one way or another.

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