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Home > Culture and Society

New Labour, Old Techno-Bollocks

19 January 2007

If you've worked in 'new media', you'll probably have found yourself listening to a load of old bollocks, usually ridiculous claims about the impact of new technology made by 25-year-olds in Next suits. When the Internet came along they confidently announced that 'Print is dead!' Now that podcasts are all the rage they're coming up with exactly the same rubbish, e.g. 'People want to watch TV on their mobile phones. And when our crappy podcast hits the Chinese market, that's over *one billion viewers* straight away!'

Extravagant claims about the power of technology are par for the course in new media, but it's hard to tell what anyone genuinely believes. It could just be people talking the talk as long as someone pays their salary, or it could be some sort of mass delusion about the power of technology. And this, unfortunately, is what the government seems to be suffering from. This week details emerged of government suggestions for tackling crime with various technologies: chemical castration for sex offenders; mentally ill patients could be fitted with microchips; text messages could be sent to parents to warn them that a paedophile is active in their local area.

Groan. All these 'solutions' share one thing in common: they're based on a horribly nave belief in technology. Chemical castration suffers from the basic flaw that only a handful of sex offenders volunteer for it, thus requiring a massive legal battle to allow it to be carried out involuntarily. Even then, studies suggest it doesn't actually work, with some chemical castratees (castratos?) perfectly able to have sex, and others more interested in the sadistic, rather than sexual, elements of sex crime.

Meanwhile, sticking a microchip in a person is just ridiculous. It's no different from sticking a chip in a dog or a cat or a fox or a whale: you can track their movements (sort of) and put data on the chip, but not much else. If someone with paranoid schizophrenia goes for a walk in Richmond Park, are they planning to stab someone, or are they just going for a walk? As for texting parents about paedophiles, what the hell is this meant to achieve? The mass text surely wouldn't contain details of who the paedophile is, which would surely just result in a lynching, so it would basically say 'Watch out, there's a paedo about.'

It's not just the way these measures seem to be financially motivated (it's a lot easier to send a text message than keep paedophiles in prison and make real, realistic assessments of how likely they are to re-offend), it's also the way it's so genuinely clueless. Does the government really believe this shit?

If the answer is 'yes', then look out for a text message on your phone saying 'Don't get run over.' It'll be a government initiative to reduce road deaths.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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