Peter Rhodes on living for the moment, an equation for our time and the enigma of the hidden camera
Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.
When it comes to financial planning, it would be useful for humans to be born with a barcode on their buttocks indicating their expiry date. If you knew your allotted span was 87 years and 19 days you could save and spend wisely and depart this life exactly as you came into it, with a bank balance of £00.00p
As it is, we can only guess. Time after time we get it wrong. Spend too much and you face an old age in penury. Save too much and you deny yourself all sorts of nice things and end up as that most unenvied character, the richest person in the cemetery. At present, after decades of increasing life-expectancy, someone aged 60 may feel obliged to assume they will be here until 90 and ration themselves accordingly. But if we are moving into an age of pandemics which prey on the elderly, maybe the old assumptions no longer apply. The 60-year-old should perhaps expect only 20 more years, not 30. You may see this as a gloomy prospect. One the other hand, you may see it as the perfect excuse to buy that classic car, bike, camera outfit, set of golf clubs or (assuming they ever return) a dream holiday.
Over the past couple of lockdown months, a group of blokes of a certain age of my acquaintance have bought between them two mountain bikes, a new car, a motorcycle and two boats. I haven't asked them (it would be indelicate) but maybe there is an element of Nearer, My God to Thee about these purchases. Think how many billions would be pumped into the economy if the grey folk of England looked back on having survived this pandemic and thought: “To hell with it. I'm having that Jag.”
Meanwhile, watch out for the hidden-camera enigma on TV reports. It begins with a TV interviewer dutifully conducting a safe-distance interview on a tablet. We see the interviewee appear on the screen. We see the reporter's face on the screen. And then there's a wide shot showing the reporter from a distance. So who's operating that camera - and why?
Alastair Campbell keeps popping up on the box as some sort of national conscience. He's been particularly fierce about Dominic Cummings – and rightly so. After all, a Downing Street spin-doctor cannot be allowed to suggest British troops are threatened by weapons of mass destruction and . . oh, hang on. That wasn't Cummings, it was someone else.
According to the Seattle Times, news stories for the Microsoft MSN website are to be selected by Artificial Intelligence (AI) devices instead of humans. A Microsoft journalist is quoted: “I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI is going to take all our jobs - now it's taken mine." Behold, an equation for our age AI=P45.
More on the genius of computers and predictive spelling. I type in “the” and my computer suggests “thermometer.”
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