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Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 10th May 2011



Gadgets - our shiny little friends. Elegant wee status symbols that help us find our way, chat to our friends and play games when we are bored. Gadgets - cute little helpmates that take the rough edges off life and generally make things a bit nicer.
 
 
Or, gadgets - robbing us of our common sense as we rely on them to do the most basic things, leaving us ignorant and helpless to the point that instead of lifting our heads, looking around and thinking for ourselves, we no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years and simply accept whatever our gadgets show us.
 
According to Robert Vamosi, author of When Gadgets Betray Us, our reliance on electronic trinkets is changing the human race - and not in a good way.
 
As gadgets develop the ability to multitask seemingly endless functions, Vamosi argues that people are increasingly unable to think for themselves. The Round-Up nods vigorously in blind agreement as it reads the article on its iPad. And then walks into a door.
 
Vamosi argues that our reliance on gadgets means we are increasingly abandoning our natural senses and indeed common sense, and living our lives through the lens of technology.
 
He cites the example of one woman who narrowly missed being hit by a train after she followed sat-nav directions over a railway track: when she got out of her car to open the level-crossing gate, a speeding train drove straight through her vehicle.
 
He claims we are developing a culture of dependence on technology to the detriment of our common sense, assuming we had any common sense to start with.
 
For thousands of years we relied on our senses and instincts as hunters and gatherers; these days there's an app for that.
 
As Vamosi says: "We no longer read the manual before powering on. We demand intuitive interfaces that appear up and running right away, while often masking important security settings."
 
So superior usability does have its downsides - it turns us into a nation of unthinking drones entrusting our identities, locations and most personal data to vast multinational behemoths that make shiny things.
 
So should you dump your BlackBerry in a canal, hurl your iPhone into the sea and live life in a cave rocking back and forth and whimpering? Hell no.
 
Just take a few precautions, and remember who is in charge. That's you, by the way.
 
And on the plus side, while your gadgets might be robbing you of your common sense, we're not living in a Minority Report world of constant surveillance just yet.
 
In terms of how our personal data is treated, Vamosi reckons we're still in the realms of another Hollywood blockbuster: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
 
This is because data is likely to be filed away and forgotten, just like the end of the movie (antique spoiler alert!) "where you've got this vast warehouse of data and they're taking the Ark to be in some row in some queue way back in the far corner where it will probably get lost".
 
Phew, when he said Raiders of the Lost Ark the Round-Up had visions of being chased down the street by giant boulders. Then again, at least that would make the journey to work more fun.
 
 
Text your taxi fare
The Royal Wedding has come and gone and we’re left with memories, commemorative DVDs and a fridge full of uneaten sausage rolls.
 
But just when you thought we'd all had enough of Union Jacks for a while, telecoms giant Vodafone is branding London cabs with the red, white and blue to promote its latest initiative.
 
The company's customers can now pay for London taxi fares using their phones through a new mobile payment scheme.
 
The scheme lets customers send a text with the taxi's registration number and the cost of the taxi fare. The cost of the ride is then added to the user’s phone bill or deducted from their pay-as-you-go tariff.
 
The Union Jack-branded fleet will also be fitted with chargers for a range of handsets which are available to all mobile users regardless of their network. The first few cabs are now fitted with phone chargers, with all Vodafone taxis set to be equipped by August.
 
All very high tech. Whether it will persuade the average cabs to go south of the river after nine on a Saturday night remains to be seen...
 
 
And finally...
Elsewhere on silicon.com this week: BT is recruiting ex-forces personnel in an initiative to deploy the superfast network that will bring broadband speeds of up to 40Mbps to about two-thirds of the country by 2015.
 
The ex-forces men and women will begin working for BT's mobile engineering workforce this month after a fast-track recruitment and training programme.
 
But while many of us still wait for the broadband upgrade of our dreams, one UK city has already made it. Any idea which British city was the only one to be ranked in the world's top 100 for broadband speeds? Ok, so it might be in 99th place, but read the story to find out which it is
 

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