Get real, of course I want my toaster to spy on me

When I was younger you could only get small round crumpets but today you can get large square ones that fit in the toaster perfectly and I have one every day for breakfast. More about that later. 

Embracing new technology

The industrial revolution started in Britain and spread around the world and was the start of our modern world. This was the first time in history that living standards grew year on year – a major milestone in human history. The downside is all this was powered by burning fossil fuels, leading to the climate crisis today. 

2023 could be the year that we take our first steps into the next revolution with the release of generative AI. As part of this new stage in human history we need to make sure fixing climate change is included as we take our next leap forward. What we can say for sure is our phones, laptops and gadgets are going to get a lot smarter and at times it is going to get a little weird. We will be drawing circles on the screen around objects to Google them or speaking to someone in their own language using live translate on our phones – I think they had that on Star Trek. This list could go on and on with examples. 

I had an online video meeting the other day with about 50 people across the east of England without having to leave my home. It saved lots of time and no need to travel by car. What was a first for me during the meeting was when the voice from the screen said: “We are splitting you into groups to have a chat, it will be like magic” and in a pixelated blink of an eye, I was now with a group of 5 people. After we had chatted for 15 minutes with someone still talking, I was sucked back to the big group again. It gave me quite a weird feeling which is called ‘The Uncanny Valley’. As our technology gets better at trying to be human we will all get this funny feeling at times. 

Who wants to be the “The human in the loop”? i.e. Babysitting the computer so it does not screw up too much and each time you correct it, it will learn and get it right next time. Strange days are these.  

Now, I am a big fan of all this tech but I need to unplug sometimes, or I get grumpy and irritable. Instead of impulse shopping online and waiting for the brown box with a smiley arrow, I like to go to the shops. 

Community and connecting with nature

Councils have a big part to play in giving us quality opportunities to get back into the ‘real’ world, to get in touch with other people and nature, and get off our bums from in front of screens and move around. If we don’t all do this, it will be bad for our physical and mental health. 

I’ll share some of the things I do to give me a needed break from all the gadgets and laptops. Perhaps it’ll give you some ideas of activities that are out there and available to join in with. 

  • Each morning, I walk along the river in our beautiful Essex County Council Country Park and I try and leave the phone at home and meet all the other dog walkers, like Laura, who calls us her river family.
  • Once a month, I volunteer in Chelmsford City Council’s parks. I have been doing this long before I was a councillor. Working in a nature reserve for a few hours is a lot of fun and good exercise and you get a cup of tea and a KitKat at the end. I really look forward to meeting everyone and seeing the difference we all make.
  • I go on litter picks that are organised by Ray for South Woodham Ferrers Town Council. We’re provided with yellow hi-vis vests and all the necessary equipment! This gets me moving around on a Sunday morning and I’m always very proud to see the pictures of all the bags of rubbish we collected posted on Facebook.
  • Love your Chelmsford do litter picks and river clear ups, and these have been fun, I even got myself in one of the videos that they did, with me carrying a road barrier fished out of the river.
  • The Mayor of Chelmsford put on a charity concert recently and the talent was amazing. Every act was great, and it was all happening in front of me, not on a screen. Young Gen did a small preview of their upcoming production “Everybody’s talking about Jamie”. I had such a good time and was so impressed by the talent that I just had to book to see the full show.
  • I am hoping to get along soon to Chelmsford Museum – you know I love a museum and I will let you know about my visit.
  • There is so much going on and churches and voluntary groups have all kinds of events. Here in South Woodham Ferrers, the Evangelical Church in Hullbridge Road does a Monday lunch drop-in and say everyone is welcome. They offer soup and tea and coffee. I get along as much as I can, it is so nice to chat and be together. 
  • It’s a good job that all this technology helps me do my work as it lets me unplug and ‘get real’ for an hour or two. The work is still there after I have a much needed break from the screens. 

Square crumpets

Let’s get back to my earlier mention of the toaster and my love of square crumpets… Right now work is going on to use AI to monitor the daily routine of vulnerable people so they can live safely in their own home. So, when I am older, if AI spots I have not had my morning crumpet and texts my son to give me a call to check that I’m OK, why would I have a problem with that?

A final thought

If I can just take you back to some of my older blogs, I have this update: 

It is strange how the memory of the music of my youth has been triggered writing these blogs. I can remember the music and the feelings I had at the time. I said to you before how young people stood up and brought about change. What I did not know until now after doing some research was the story behind this. A documentary titled ‘White Riot’ released in 2020, tells the story of ordinary people believing they can change the world in the late seventies. With the birth of Rock Against Racism, the documentary charts a vital national protest movement with the theme of music at its core. I paid £9.99 to watch the documentary on Amazon and highly recommend it. Click below to watch a trailer: 

(964) White Riot UK Official Trailer | In Cinemas 18 Sept – YouTube

Cllr Terry Sherlock