Home / TECHNOLOGY / Technology is making us all stupid, says ANN WIDDECOMBE | Ann Widdecombe | Columnists | Comment

Technology is making us all stupid, says ANN WIDDECOMBE | Ann Widdecombe | Columnists | Comment


Many shops are unable to function without their electric tills

Then calculators took over. Next calculators were built into tills and finally we had computers. 

All anybody working in a shop has to do these days is scan items and lo! The sum will appear. 

Similarly there was a time when shopkeepers physically counted up their stock but these days the computer simply counts the scanned barcodes. 

Progress? Yes, just as long as we can always fall back on human intelligence. Alas, the scene at WHSmith’s bookshop at Bristol airport last Wednesday showed all too clearly how pathetically we are now governed by technology. 

Both computers at the till broke down, refusing to let the increasingly flustered assistant log on. 

Well, never mind, we could just pay for our purchases, couldn’t we? No, said the lady, the computer was necessary to record the transaction. 

One young man offered to leave the exact amount. No, she said, she had to scan the item in. 

The result was a queue of people leaving empty-handed. Oh, for pity’s sake! Surely she could just have noted the purchases on a bit of paper and taken the money manually. 

That, it seems, is just too much like common sense. We are now so dependent on technology that we cannot function without it. 

Do you suppose that if robots ever do get programmed to do our housework, we will forget what to do with a duster? 

Will the students of tomorrow goggle in wonder at the sight of a book? Will drivers be afraid to brake in case they upset a selfdrive car? 

Do not be too hasty to dismiss such fantastic ideas. It is less than 50 years since shopworkers understood: note product, take money, give change. 

They would have laughed to scorn any notion that daily trade could be thwarted by a defective machine.


Barcelona attackGETTY

Police arrested four suspects and killed six more following the horrific attack in Barcelona

I admire the Spanish reaction to the Barcelona atrocity. First the police arrested four terrorists while killing another, then tracked down and killed five more. 

There has been no moaning about over-reaction or demands that the police face an investigation. 

Next, instead of endless whingeing about whether the government could have done more to prevent the tragedy (you can just imagine the BBC and Channel 4 going to town on that here) thousands of citizens turned out waving placards proclaiming that they are not afraid of jihadis, effectively telling them that their campaign of terror is doomed to failure. 

That’s the spirit. Once it would have been the British spirit too. Whatever happened?



Pupils sitting some exam boards can get a pass at GCSE with just 18 per cent

Last week I wrote about the folly of deceiving the young with grossly inflated exam results. 

Now it transpires that pupils can be awarded a pass in GCSE maths just by getting 18 per cent. 

I read that in disbelief and wondered if the journalist had written it while the worse for wear. Nope. It’s true. 

One board is reported to be offering a pass for as little as 15 per cent and the equivalent of the old grade A for 52 per cent. 

Last year pupils needed 40 per cent to get a pass grade. No wonder employers are fed up. 

The Government should scrap Ofqual and start again, beginning with a few basic principles such as 18 per cent is a miserable performance and 52 per cent is no more than adequate. 

If that results in a lot of weeping and wailing so be it. At least the truth will be out.


Jennifer Aniston has said Hollywood does not respect ageing but then walks into the trap of referring to Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep as “gorgeous”, thus perpetuating the notion that looks are all that matter. 

There will always be roles, both male and female, for older actors just because so many stories feature grandparents or elderly monarchs or whatever. 

Peter O’Toole was as magnificent as the aged Priam in Troy as he was when young as Lawrence of Arabia. 

An older Shakespearean actress will play Volumnia in Coriolanus rather than Desdemona in Othello and the same is true of the big screen. 

A significant performer will merely adapt so Aniston should stop whining.


Jemma BealePA

Jemma Beale has been sentenced to 10 years in prison

Jemma Beale has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for making nine false rape allegations. 

In one case a man served two years in prison while she won thousands in compensation. 

In another a man fled the country. Anyone who hopes that this might mark a turning point in the Crown Prosecution Service’s attitude to false rape claims is doomed to disappointment. 

I have read carefully the CPS press release on the case. It says false allegations of rape are rare. 

Oh no they aren’t, as failed prosecution after failed prosecution shows. What is rare is for the CPS to take any action. 

What is truly alarming about the CPS statement is this sentence: “False allegations of rape and sexual assault are rare but when made are serious because they undermine the credibility of genuine victims and the efforts of the CPS and police to see perpetrators brought to justice.” 

That is fair enough but are they not serious also because they destroy innocent men? Because they can result in false imprisonment? Because they bring shame and misery to the families of the falsely accused? 

Apparently not, according to the CPS, because there is no mention of the innocent at all in the entire press release. 

Indeed the whole tone of the statement is almost apologetic for having brought a case at all with the word “unusual” repeated in consecutive sentences. 

Some weeks ago I wrote about how the police in the case of Alexander Economou, an innocent man who resorted to a private prosecution, stated that an officer would have to be “brave” to pursue an allegation of falsehood against someone claiming rape. 

I suppose we should be grateful that the police found the necessary bravery to prosecute Ms Beale. 

When the CPS finally did take over the prosecution in the case, the accompanying statement was also apologetic in tone as if Mr Economou were a nuisance rather than a deeply wronged man. 

I suspect there are quite a few falsely convicted men in prison and that one day there will be as big an outcry about how they were treated as there is now about how genuine rape victims were once treated. 

Meanwhile, while Alison Saunders runs the CPS, the police shy away from investigating perversions of justice and the Justice Secretary is content for these attitudes to prevail, men should beware casual sex however consensual. 

Mothers should give their sons the same advice as once they gave daughters: just say no because you never know what might happen.

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