Bougainville beyond the referendum
The practical wisdom of the kiap

Warning: You’re being dumbed down


DUMBY (er, TUMBY) BAY - It’s easy to imagine that one day in the not too distant future everything will be digitised and automated.

Here is a blurb about the latest trend in toilets:

“It's a germophobes dream come true: Never having to touch a toilet handle again. With the latest Numi toilet from Kohler, you can simply ask it to ‘flush’ and it will comply. If you forget, it will flush itself anyway.

“The toilet also lets you choose the colour of ambient lighting and the music from its speakers. At night, the lid automatically opens as you approach and the seat warmer activates. It flushes and closes the lid as you leave.”

My contacts tell me that the next model will have a feature that will wipe your bum for you. Sorry, that’s not true, I just made it up but, if it ever happens, you heard it here first.

The Numi is, of course, an American invention. The pundits refer to it as an ‘intelligent toilet’. People are queueing up to buy it.

The Chinese have already pirated the technology and are ready to produce millions of the things at half the cost.

Just imagine what will happen if one day someone in charge flicks an off-switch somewhere or a natural catastrophe turns everyone’s power supply off.

What will people do if they have forgotten how to manually flush their toilet? Sneak out and crap on their neighbour’s lawn perhaps?

It’s not just toilets, of course.

In a similar fashion technology is teaching us how to exist without the painful necessity of thinking. Our opinions now come to us pre-packaged on social media. All we have to do is act like sponges.

Instead of using our brains we now prefer to be entertained.

Devices of every conceivable type channel entertainment to us no matter where we are. We can even watch reality TV shows and movies on our portable devices while we are sitting on our intelligent toilets.

Entertainment is everywhere. In the so-called developed nations, entertainment is now the primary function of government.

Don’t believe me? I offer you Donald Trump and Boris Johnson as prime examples.

Of course, keeping the masses entertained is an old trick. The Romans were good at it with their bloody extravaganzas in the Colosseum. Hitler perfected it with his marches and parades. Xi Jinping has just done it to celebrate 70 years of communism.

Social media and technology make distracting the masses so much easier. Dumbing down is possible on a gigantic scale thanks to the internet. Imagine what Goebbels could have done with it.

Apart from convincing us that we need things like voice activated toilets, it’s also making it easier to convince us that things that are not true are true. This phenomenon is now quaintly referred to as ‘fake news’ or ‘alternative facts’.

We are now ensconced in an era of unlearning. We are ditching age-old skills like flushing our own toilets.

We don’t repair things anymore. We throw them away and buy a new thing. Even with big things like cars we just unplug a faulty component and plug in a new one.

Once upon a time people would service their own cars. They’d change the oil, grease everything, top up the brake and clutch fluids and maybe change the spark plugs, all in their own backyard.

Nowadays that’s impossible. Open the bonnet of any car and you’ll find something out of Star Wars sitting there. Nowadays it’s off to the local garage to pay someone with a PhD to plug you car into a diagnostic machine.

With all of this convenience we end up with even more leisure time and the need for even more entertainment.

Thus continues our journey from active participants in the world to inactive participants. Without really noticing it we are slowly becoming irrelevant. Our only function will be to consume.

After that, it’s not hard to imagine the day when we will be declared obsolete.

One day the world will be ruled by voice activated toilets.


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David Kitchnoge

I had a discussion on artificial intelligence not so long ago with some colleagues and we all ended up agreeing that robots would take over our lives in the not too distant future.

My personal view is that human race is on a mission to self-terminate. When we export our capacity to think to some central storage in the clouds and then create machines that can self-access that storage is the time when we will lose our kind.

Imagine robots that can think for themselves. Can you imagine robots waging warfare on humans? Sounds a bit apocalyptic but I would argue that it is not outside the realm of possibilities.

Bernard Corden

Neil Postman's book entitled "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business", which was published back in 1985 is well worth reading:

Andrew Keen's "Cult of the Amateur" is another fascinating book and is supplemented via his TechCrunch blog:

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