5 reasons to rage against the modern world

The only upside? Self-tying shoelaces...

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The Independent Online

For the most part, it's good to be alive in 2015. In the western world, we will live longer, healthier, more prosperous lives than our forbears. Medical science is moving at a phenomenal pace, and technological developments have expanded our horizons and made our lives more convenient. Only this week, for instance, we learned of the advent of self-tying shoelaces. Bliss it is in that dawn to be alive!

Nevertheless, not all that is in the name of progress necessarily takes us forward, and for every pair of rechargeable, electric shoelaces, something else emerges in our world that, in my mature opinion, makes everyday life a pain. It's not just my age, or that my natural instincts are those of a Northern curmudgeon, but I find I don't have to search very far to find a reason to rage against the modern world.

1. Self check-outs

No wonder some supermarkets are doing so badly. Who wants to do their weekly shop and then have the anxiety of making a self check-out work? Anyone over the age of 40 who is not brought up with an intuitive understanding of technology finds these machines baffling, and feels somewhat unsettled about colluding with a supermarket giant to put a human being out of work. What's more, we are made to feel like dunces. “Unexpected item in the bagging area,” broadcasts the machine, and, yes, I have indeed been exposed in the bagging area.

2. Satellite navigation and Google maps

I am, sadly, old enough to remember the joy of a map. What a pleasure it was to unfold a map, study the landscape and plot a route. The language of cartography is almost as redundant today as Esperanto, or Cornish. Now you plug in your destination in a machine and follow instructions from a disembodied voice. No landmarks are noticed along the route, there's no sense of engagement with your environment, and no human interaction takes place.

3. Overblown films

When did films start getting so damn long? I am of the Woody Allen tendency when it comes to the length of a film - between 90 and 100 minutes is the optimum time. Almost every occasion I go to the cinema these days, I come out wishing that 20 minutes or so had been edited out of it. Two hours or more now seems quite standard for a feature film and, in almost every case, some judicious pruning would improve it. I speak as a man who has just seen Matthew Vaughn's new film Kingsman - two hours of my life I'll never get back.


4. Voice activated ticketing

Whether it's ordering a cinema ticket or paying for parking, the convenience of paying by phone is outweighed by, first, the peculiar experience of giving instructions loudly to a robot, and then by the frustration of not being able to make said robot understand what you're saying.

5. Mobile phone shops

Every time I enter one of these hell holes, I feel I am entering a Kafka-esque nightmare. There's always a reason, ever more obscure, why I can't get what I want. And have you ever tried to change service provider? Easier to change religion.

Now, where do I get a pair of those shoelaces?