The war against progress continues
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Nov 14, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

The war against progress continues

Ottawa East News
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The pace of change is exhausting. They’re changing the passport, changing the $20 bill, closing the ServiceOntario machines and starting Christmas music later at Shoppers Drug Mart. So much to learn, so little time.

Let’s start with the last one. An unanticipated wave of common sense swept over the business community, resulting in a decision by a major retail chain to hold off on the Christmas music until at least after Remembrance Day.

You might not even have noticed that it was missing in the days after Halloween. But maybe you did. Maybe you were walking through the drugstore with an odd little feeling that something was just a bit off. Then you realized, right there in the razor blades aisle, that the song playing was Raindrops Are Falling on My Head, not Jingle Bell Rock.

Somehow you resisted the urge to complain. When you learned the reason why, you might even have applauded. Christmas music, particularly the cheery commercial kind, can wait until after we have had time to think about the costs and sacrifices of war. Who knows, maybe the idea will catch on, more businesses will adopt this practice next year and we can be spared Frosty the Snow Man until there is actual frost.

Meanwhile, there are gains and losses in the war against technology. Example: fancy new passports coming which will be full of iconic Canadian images and iconic Canadian politicians, not all of them Conservative.

The passports will also have the inevitable chip in them, electronic rather than edible. The chip will have an antenna, which isn’t as alarming as it sounds. You can still put it in your pocket, but you can also wave it at a scanner which will then know everything about you.

Apparently the scanner won’t know more about you than a person could, from reading what’s printed on the passport, but in our society we now like our machines to know as much as possible.

People less so. That’s why the Ontario government put machines in most of the shopping centres, allowing you to do such things as renew your car registration without having to be in contact with a human being. Those machines were actually quite efficient and enabled you to skip long line-ups. For some reason there weren’t long line-ups at the machines.

But among those who did line up, it seems, were cyber-crooks, who were suspected of wanting to learn what the machine knew, such as people’s credit card information. So the government shut the machines down temporarily, and now permanently.

This is sort of a victory over technology because now you might go back to a human being to get your registration. Amazingly, when I did so recently, there was no lineup, the process was quick and efficient and I was out of there quicker than if I’d been dealing with the machine. Plus I think someone smiled.

The lack of a lineup might have been due to more people doing their government business online. Still, it is worth keeping in mind that when you deal with a human being rather than a machine you might be helping human beings stay employed.

Speaking of which — and apologies for the lame transition — Queen Elizabeth is more fully employed on the new $20 bill than she was on the old one. The bill, issued last week, has her image on it three times, compared to the old bill’s one. There’s the big portrait on the front of the bill and smaller images peering out from those metallic strips front and back.

On the new $50, which was issued in March, the three images are of Mackenzie King, so this one is definitely an improvement.

Six Queens will get you a new passport, which you can wave at a scanner and it will know everything about you. Is life great or what?

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