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Peter Rhodes on the perils of online gambling, witchcraft in London and computers that are almost human

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's Peter Rhodes column.

COMPUTERS get more human all the time. I was buying a gadget a few days ago. The barcode and stock number were so tiny the bloke behind the till could not read them. Neither could I and neither, crucially, could the barcode-reading gizmo. We may be approaching that great turning point in technology when computers start asking: "Anybody seen my reading glasses?"

MEANWHILE, if computer says no, so do some of the people designing computers. I am the proud owner of a new double-insulated, thermostat-controlled and 24/7 timed electric heater. The handbook is the sort of thing you'd expect for a Trident submarine with eight pages of instructions covering the programming of the computer. The more I read it, the less sense it makes.

AFTER a couple of hours, utterly defeated, I emailed the supplier. Minutes later he sent a simplified two-page version of the instructions in words that even human beings can understand. It was clear and concise. Most importantly, it was something to wave in your's spouse's face and say: "See? It's not just me." In a perfect world, someone would sit down with the boffins and explain the importance of keeping things simple. Sometimes, computer programming is too important to be left to computer programmers.

MIND you the instruction booklet with its tips drafted at PhD level also carries the useful advice not to clean electric heaters with gasoline. You see the problem? They cater for geniuses, they cater for morons. It's those of us in the middle that get overlooked.

CLEANING Up (ITV) is not the finest vehicle for the dazzling talents of Sheridan Smith but at least it's an antidote to the epidemic of TV adverts for online gambling. While tobacco ads are banned and alcohol advertising is strictly governed, the gambling companies can pretend there is a happy community of winners out there in cyberspace, all having a wonderful time with new friends when it's just a cold and hugely efficient industry designed to transfer your money into the hands of others. One day we will look back on these ads and wonder how they were ever allowed.

I WROTE recently about the human tendency to disbelieve experts, even when it comes to refusing well-proven vaccinations. Perhaps the problem is that for every million vaccinations that are successful, and therefore never reported, there is one isolated but unspeakable tragedy that hits the headlines. By a horrible coincidence, on the very day that last week's report on "vaccine resistance" was published, the obituary of Professor Martin Gore, 67, appeared. He was a much loved and respected doctor and one of Britain's top cancer experts. A couple of weeks ago he had a routine injection against yellow fever, suffered total organ failure and died.

AN Old Bailey jury heard that signs of witchcraft found in a London home included two cow tongues bound with wire and 40 limes and other fruit containing pieces of paper with names written on them. Good to see not everybody is obsessed with Brexit.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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