Whenever a new operating system or electronic gadget comes out, we hear about how it will perform all the tasks that we need at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen. The manufacturers and programmers spend millions learning about what we do and tweaking their products until they fit seamlessly into our everyday lives.
It’s dawned on me, though, that it’s not just about our computers learning from us. There’s a lot we can learn from them, too. Here are my top five areas where my laptop currently beats me hands down.
1. ‘Are you sure?’
Whenever I’m about to do something monumentally stupid, like accidentally deleting my entire address book or closing down without saving the thing I’ve been working on all day, my computer helpfully checks to make sure I really want to do that. While the little ‘are you sure?’ pop-up usually serves just to irritate me no end, how useful would it be to have that in real life? Just as you’re about throw something at your boss or go out without turning the oven off, something taps you on the shoulder and asks whether that’s really a good idea. Definitely a positive development.
For lesser demeanours, there’s always undo. Just overwritten a paragraph but realised you preferred the older version? Or inserted a contents page but the formatting’s got all messed up? No problem. But that little curvy arrow would be infinitely more useful when I’ve just ironed a scorch mark into one of my wife’s T-shirts, scraped my car along the wall next to the drive or spilled a bag of frozen peas all over the kitchen floor.
3. File manager
When I want to find a file on my computer, it’s easy. I just click on file manager and follow my (reasonably) logical directory structure until I come to what I need. When I want to find something in real life, though, it’s not quite so straightforward. First I have to think where I last saw it. Then I try to remember what I might have been doing when I last used it. And if that doesn’t work, then I either go without or buy a new one.
4. Extra data storage
From time to time, my computer gets a bit full. So I can either move some stuff onto a CD or buy another external hard drive. When my brain gets full, then sadly this isn’t an option. It just kind of stops. Sometimes I might forget something, which creates room for me to learn or remember something new. But unfortunately I can’t control what gets forgotten and what gets learned. Which is why I can remember the number plates of every car my family has ever owned, but can’t remember where I put the key to the shed.
5. RAM upgrades
You had a late night last night. It’s now 6am, the alarm’s blaring and you have three quarters of an hour to get your sorry backside out of bed, through the shower, dressed and onto the train in time for an important presentation at the office. What you need is some extra RAM. A little extra processing speed to get you through the day. If only.
So yes, there’s a lot I can learn from my computer. I may have the opposable thumbs and millions of years of evolution behind me, but it would appear there’s still a way to go.