Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Uses of Technology

There was a letter in this week's Amateur Photographer from some old fogey bemoaning the fact that modern cameras do everything.Where's the skill? Where's the fun? he was asking. If the camera made all possible decisions what do you do?.
To an extent I can understand: he wants to feel he is the master of a craft and is practising a skill. If the camera makes all the decisions where is the credit?. However the letters editor had a perfectly reasonable response: if you don't want to use a feature then don't. There is nothing to stop you using manual focus or setting your own exposures.
When I look at running technology I sometimes feel like that man. Why do I need all that information or all the rigidity of different zones? But then the other, more intellectual open, side kicks in and tells me just to use what I need - and anyway aren't all these functions amazing? Who could have imagined, but a few short years ago, so much cool stuff would be available. In so many ways I am in love with the modern world.
But the grumpy old man still lurks and an alert about a Motorola fitness aid brought him out. I have no idea whether the device is any good or not but the blurb for the music player tipped me over the edge.
"Training is serious work. You need a soundtrack. MOTOACTV's smart music player learns what songs motivate you by tracking your performance against your music. It determines which songs help you perform better and then compiles them in a high-performance playlist."
Instead of thinking Wow! How great! I need that! I found it slightly creepy and sinister. The association with work made me think of all the monitoring in soulless call centres and the regimentation of production lines. The attempts to pen people in and systematise their effort. Science fiction has long warned of societies that suppressed all individuality and free speech with rigourous regulation and I thought of that rather than an aid that would help me achieve more.
Four simple words: "training is serious work" put me in the opposition camp. This is not what I think about when I think of running. For sure I am serious and treat it with respect but it is not work. Instead it offers the opportunity for freedom, play and the satisfaction that comes from effort. That is the heart of it and I don't want to be nudged into thinking of it in any other way.

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