As someone who in the distant past worked in a bank and has tried to keep up with developments in banking, I find the Little Britain sketch of the bemused customer being told that, whatever he wants, ‘The computer says no’, not only hilarious but rather too close to the truth for comfort.
It’s also becoming nigh on impossible to shop these days without the ubiquitous bar code reader standing between you and the exit. Most of us will probably have had at least one experience of being told by a check-out operator that the bill for our sandwiches and bottle of pop is £883.99. It must be, because the till says so. The fact that everyone knows a sandwich and bottle of pop can’t cost that doesn’t come into it.
It seems that the most basic thought processes are, as far as many people are concerned, being suspended. The answer is what the computer says, and that’s an end to it.
Now there’s a computerised gadget that opens up a whole new world of possibilities in the elimination of thought; the Satellite Navigation System. A couple of weeks ago it was reported that because road works had closed a popular road in the West Country those drivers with Sat Nav were being technologically re-directed via a village that contained a ford. Unfortunately, this was not your average ford a la Kersey but a river in full spate and around four feet deep where it crossed the carriageway. A non-technological driver would approach with caution, assess the situation and, unless driving a tractor, would turn back. The Sat Nav brigade? You’ve guessed it; the technology says this is the way, so this way it is. The silver lining came for enterprising locals who did a roaring trade in towing people out and then drying them off. One local woman had some explaining to do when her husband came home to find a van driver’s trousers drying on the cooker.
These tales, to which I’m sure many other experiences could be added, do have some relevance to Humanism. Most Humanists have come to their views on life, the universe and everything by thinking about the world around them. They are not Humanists because a prophet, priest or ‘wise’ man told them to be, or an uninvited visitor came to their door and ‘converted’ them. At the last meeting of Suffolk Humanists, it was generally agreed that having a Humanist outlook on life was probably the hardest option because Humanists like to work things out for themselves and accept the consequences of their own actions right or wrong. I like the term some Humanists use to describe themselves; free thinkers. If Humanists do something wrong they can never say that God, or a computer, told them to do it. They’ve only themselves to blame.