Oops! – Where did they go? And who’s coming next?

Seem to spend some evenings watching detective series repeats, you know the thing, Lewis, Morse, Endeavour, Poirot, Miss Marple that kind of thing.

Watching Poirot the other night my little grey cells were stimulated by the plot which revolved around a typing pool.

They are no more

Typing pool? Yes where they had several women (that tells a story in itself, watch out for the Vagina chronicles coming soon!) with typewriters (!) who typed stuff to order, on paper. No word files!. So typing pools probably no longer exist, the word processor followed by the personal computer and Microsoft Word put paid to that.

In my year out as a student architect in 1977, the IBM golf ball typewriter was state of the art, with interchangeable golf balls so you could change the font! Probably a dozen choices. How many fonts do you have available to you right now?

IBM Golf Ball Type Head
IBM Golf Ball Typewriter

So the whole secretarial thing has undergone massive change.

Gas lamp lighters undone by electricity.

Bus conductors undone by driver only buses.

Driver only buses and trains undone by driverless trains and buses? Just around the corner. The B1M has a study on driverless Volvo vehicles I think.

Analogue drawing office

The way I was

We were discussing drawing offices on site the other day. I can remember some organisations had rows and rows of drawing boards (remember them, double elephant size, remember that?), with parallel motion or tee squares and the good old adjustable set square.Some people used to wear drawing coats like the old brown overall coat. Rotring pens, tracing paper , razor blades and the sound of incessant scratching! Or if you were lucky you had a motorised rubber , but like a drill with a rubbing out tip. Luxury! I spent many happy hours on a drawing board stressing over whether I would pass my degree at 4 am in the morning as I worked to a deadline.

Rotring drawing pens

And now it’s all replaced with your computer screen, key board, and cad operators packed in like sardines! And your choice of Revit, Tekla, Bentley and all the infernal softwares we have to deal with now!

Consider this, what would like madam?

MacDonalds and other fast food joints, you can order via app or a touch screen, all the staff are now held in the kitchen and production area, so less need for customer facing skills which will be held by a chosen few, so good luck with that. It struck me waiting for my order in the queue at the services last night , just how impersonal it is. So you don’t need frontline staff taking orders, doing the tills any more. More efficient of course. Fast food, truly fast food for the digital machine age. Fast, efficient, no soul.

Get in, order, eat, get out. Soulless. I’m beginning to react against soulless experiences. I’m tired of the machine age already.

We need more soul in life don’t you think?

And of course online retail. Death of the high street and all that jazz. In the privacy of your home, office, desk, order whatever you want, and it shall be so. Again, fast efficient, impersonal. You can order whatever you want.Anytime. Anywhere. Just for you. What ever you desire, and it shall be done. You don’t even have to get out of bed…

So whose data is it anyway?

Which brings us to the darker side of all this.

Read this article from the BBC website, no swearing in this one!

Amazon customer big data

Of course as the adults will tell us it’s all for our own good, so that they can customise their customer experience for us. Animal Farm starts to echo in my mind here. And of course this BBC article is only about Amazon! Google, YouTube, any digital information company, your web browser, your smart phone, your company network, your banks, cards financial services, the data they hold about you is huge, beyond belief. And if you believe there are no government data bases capturing all of this, GCHQ, MI6 etc, then good luck and have a good day.

Only made possible by the exponential increase in processing power since computers first launched. Power goes up, cost comes down – Moore’s Law. Power doubles at least  every 18 months. Probably less now?


Remember that every time you make any kind of digital action. Someone, some people, some companies capture every key stroke and store it way. And don’t accept this bullshit about it being aggregated and anonymised. They know where you live, where you holiday, what you buy, who you’re seeing, and your inside leg measurement.


Check out Who Owns The Future by Jason Lanier, somewhat ironically on Amazon!

Jaron Lanier

Jaron paints a future ruled by data. Data monetised, implanted chips, bio augmentation and much more .I won’t spoil the ending for you but it’s kind of apocalyptic and not pretty as these things usually are.

Of course

There is no going back. We now live in a digital gold fish bowl. We can all see each other and what we’re up to. And if you have the tools then you can collect all kinds of juicy facts about anybody in the world. If they have a digital footprint. I think there  is a growing trend to go off grid. Not so whacky as it might seem at first these days.

The gold fish bowl comes with the territory. Most of us don’t really think about it.

And of course, the internet, digital, all this stuff, has lots of good, great, fantastic uses.


We know that there a lots of people who will find bad uses for this stuff, it can be used against us. Not for our benefit. The Dark Web, hackers, white, grey, black, extortionists, blackmailers , they’re all out there. And they make money at our expense.

The likes of Google, Amazon, use the data to target advertising, so it hits us at just the right time. They use our data to make money for them. Think about that one!

And I’m sure that Government agencies all around the world will tell us it’s all for own good. Mmmmmmmm. Jury’s out on that one with Donald, Boris, Vladimir and Xi in charge!

Where I started

Originally the BBC article triggered a chain of thought, and we’ve gone round the houses a bit but we’ve finally got to where I really wanted to get to .

The concept of BIG DATA. The dark server rooms filled with huge processing power, analysing the billions of data transactions we all make on a daily basis now.

For the Built Environment industry we haven’t really seen the impact…….yet. But it’s coming. The ability to track the data footprints of companies, projects, individuals, components, systems , all of it, for the full asset lifecycle. Digital Twins and Golden Threads on steroids. In time selection of the kit, the team, the individuals, the project, the site, the design even, could be open to Big Data analysis and tools. I bet there’s someone somewhere doing it already, in 3D on computers. Oh no sorry that’s Esther McVey’s line, only about 30 years late.

Efficient. Fast. No soul!

The future is bright, the future is digital. Hahahaha.

And hey! Let’s be careful out there. Remember , every key stroke, but it’s your data!

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