By Rob Allanson

The digital age

We are living in exciting times, until the machines get annoyed
I think we are all aware that we are living in ever quickening times. The exchange of information has improved rapidly during the years, now we have generations that will grow up in pretty much a fully digital environment.

Well if not fully, then certainly different to when they used to wheel out the single BBC Acorn computer at school, on a hostess trolley of course, and is was with great delight we learn to make words scroll down the page. They called it coding…

Now our own personal data has become the latest valuable asset to the big businesses out there, bought and sold in the millions, and will probably end up being more precious to certain companies than buildings, or ironically, the people that work in them.

This is what we have let happen to ourselves, albeit somewhat unwittingly at times.
The fact that Mr. Zuckerberg’s data was sold in this raging data mining scandal broke in the news recently and made me smile – in this digital age no one is better that the other. It seems we all want to take those tests that tell you how intelligent you are, or what potato you might be.

But progress has a price, nothing is free on the interweb and we need to become more aware of that.
One digital interaction that happened recently that took me totally by surprise, was being shamed by my own phone.
Those of you that read this column will be aware that I started running, not sure that’s what I do but it’s close enough. Well I found an app that I like that does guided runs and helps you progress.

One digital interaction that happened recently that took me totally by surprise, was being shamed by my own phone.

However, with Whisky Live, and the rain, and the cold, and I wasn’t feeling great (king of excuses I know), all of a sudden the phone flashed up: “You haven’t run. Every run has a purpose. Get out there and find the meaning in every mile.” Bit rich I said to myself. Then the next day: “Your last run was 7 days ago. Make it a weekly run.” Blimey I thought what’s next: “That’s it fatso I am uninstalling because you are weak!”

In the end I did break the cursing of the phone and went out. Shhh don’t tell anyone, I think I might be beginning to enjoy it. The fact that I am not running for anyone other than myself, not training for anything, just enjoying being free and exploring the village more as I try to lengthen my circuits.

Sure the digital revolution has made things easier, certainly accessing music has never been easier that before. But I still say, and I like to do this when I am writing, there is nothing like having the record player going.

Unlike music streaming channels, there is a ritual that is familiar and comforting. Forever having to re-level the deck out, cleaning the needle and vinyl, choosing a play list actually with my hands. Then there is the fact that I know that in a certain amount of time I have to get up to turn the disc over. It doesn’t really disturb my train of thought, if I am not ready I don’t have to, but a wander to the sideboard and back lets the ideas churn and form.

This got me thinking about other “slow” things in my life and just how important they are. Reading a book as opposed to a tablet. There is a vested experience there. Planting seeds, looking after them and reaping the eventual rewards.
Speaking of which, my barley has gone in the ground finally. With great thanks to Andrew Nelstrop at the English Whisky Company, who saved me possibly the smallest bag of malting barley a commercial farmer has ever seen, the home growing experiment is on. More as it happens.

Finally a piece of press promotion came into the office the other week. It had me thinking a little. In these enlightened times of recycling and calls for reducing plastic use, why would you send a huge case and packaging material just for a 50ml mini bottle. Granted we all consider most whiskies to be precious and need protection during posting. Also it’s nice to receive an interesting and through provoking new release, but this was overkill even by the standards of a certain company’s Russian doll box delivery method.

I know that companies need to come up with ways of grabbing writers’ attention in these days of information overload, but I just think a little thought is needed in how it’s all wrapped up.