An email from British Telecom (BT) arrived in the Badger’s inbox last week. It communicated the ‘inflation plus 3.9%’ price rise of the Badger’s broadband in line with a clause in his package contract. This was expected, but it was hard to take seriously BT’s accompanying narrative for the increase when the Badger can renew today with their promise of a free upgrade to fibre to the premises (FTTP) – if it becomes available during the new contract term – for 30% less than he’s currently paying! BT, by the way, appear unable to provide any date for when FTTP might be available in the area, and so the Badger considers their free upgrade promise as simply a marketing ploy of little tangible value.
As you might expect, the Badger’s started exploring the options for when his current broadband is out of contract in the summer. Last weekend, a mobile comms provider’s TV advert triggered the Badger to visit their website to look at their broadband offerings. The Badger didn’t dwell there long, but obviously long enough for their systems to kick into overdrive because over the following three days, there were a series of unsolicited calls from the same telephone number to the Badger’s landline. The Badger, as part of a long-embedded security and privacy discipline, never picks up landline calls from numbers that aren’t in his address book. A quick check of the caller’s number on who called me revealed a ‘negative’ rating and that callers were, or purported to be, from the mobile comms provider whose website the Badger had visited. The number was blocked and after a couple of days the calls stopped.
There’s nothing particularly unusual about this because it’s a dynamic that many people will have experienced. However, it reminded the Badger to be conscious of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ of marketing, to carefully consider inflation-linked price clauses when shopping for broadband, and not to be complacent because everything you do online provides data that others, reputable or otherwise, will use for their own purposes. It’s easy to become complacent, and there are always consequences from your internet searches and website visits!
The Badger’s wife always blames today’s technology when nuisances like that described above occur. The Badger, however, always tactfully disagrees and highlights that its human behaviour and human complacency in interacting with technology, rather than the technology itself, that is a root cause. He always points out that it’s rarely the technology per se that leaks information to feed the perpetual media frenzies that are a feature of modern life, its people! On this occasion, however, the Badger made a tactical error by reminding his wife that she should be careful when online because ‘you are the weakest link’. As true and generally pertinent as the phrase might be, it didn’t go down well…
There’s an interesting article entitled ‘Going global: the world the Web has wrought’ in this month’s edition of Physicsworld, the member magazine of the Institute of Physics. It covers how the Web has taken over the world in the last 30 years and the role of physicists and programmers in enabling this to happen. The article points out that the benefits of the Web have not come without tremendous economic and social dislocations, and its last sentence – ‘The world has indeed been transformed by the Web, but not entirely for the better’ – captures a truth that resonates with those whose careers spanned the Web’s progression.
The Badger made this ‘not entirely for the better’ point to a neighbour’s daughter, home from university for the weekend, and got a lecture in response! The Badger is a fuddy-duddy, apparently, whose opinions are irrelevant because his generation are responsible for everything that’s wrong and the Web has brought people nothing but good. Hmm! Resisting the urge to argue, the Badger just smiled and calmly suggested the young lady’s view might change on gaining more life experience after university. With a stare that could kill, she stormed off!
At the local supermarket later, the Badger bumped into her mother who apologetically mentioned that her daughter had ‘cancelled’ the Badger. She then said, ‘Join the club; last week she told me that I was cancelled too’. We laughed. The youngster’s mum theatrically rolled her eyes and then wryly bemoaned the amount of time her daughter spent surfing the Web. Being told you’re cancelled was a new experience, but not a bothersome one because it’s an absurdity that just illustrates the ‘not entirely for the better’ point about the transformational impact of the Web.
Many in our younger generations today seem intent on banning, reinterpreting, or cancelling anyone or anything from earlier times because it might offend. Enabling the growth of a sentiment which redefines the truth and facts of earlier eras stands out as one of the Web’s ‘not entirely for the better’ transformational impacts. Microsoft’s new ‘inclusivity checker’ in Word, see here and here, is a simple example of the sentiment’s pervasiveness. In the Badger’s view, the words actually written by authors, songsters, and spoken by famous people in earlier times are the facts of their era and suggesting ‘inclusivity’ modifications for them just promotes the breeding of a denial and dishonesty in society that future generations will regret.
From the Badger’s experience above, it seems that all you must do to be cancelled is point out that the Web is ‘not entirely for the better’, be of an older generation, and stand up for the preservation of the language and facts of history, no matter how uncomfortable they may be in a modern setting. If that’s the case, the Web is facilitating the slide to a cultural oblivion that future generations don’t deserve.