Russell Davies
Russell Davies
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: Technophobia is at best embarrassing, at worst dangerous

I got an odd request the other week. A friend of a friend asked me if I'd meet with an advertising legend to brief him on "all this internet advertising nonsense".

He, apparently, wasn't an internet user, but needed to talk to a client about it and wanted someone to try to convince him of its value. Over lunch, obviously.

This sort of thing used to happen all the time. I once made quite a good living briefing the sort- of-great and almost-good about the web, so I was a little tempted for a while. There was, after all, the prospect of an astonishingly good lunch and an encounter with one of the last of the advertising behemoths.

And it would be a story that I could pass on to my grandchildren - or, at least, to my interns.

But then it suddenly occurred to me that something had snapped and all my patience for this kind of encounter had drained away. I had finally got to the point where I couldn't be arsed to explain all this stuff. I couldn't rouse myself to try to create another convert, to say, one last time, "well, it's not obvious, you just need to try some stuff out, find an area that interests you - then it will all become clear".

In the end, I just thought: if you haven't got it by now ...

it's not that the internet's too hard, it's that you lack curiosity. And I haven't got time for the incurious.

The journalist and technologist Ben Hammersley has clearly had a similar moment. In a recent speech aimed at the inner circles of British power, he asked: "How many policy debates have you heard, from security to copyright reform, that have been predicated on technical ignorance? This is a threat to national prosperity itself far more severe than any terrorist organisation could ever be."

He added cuttingly: "It remains, in too many circles, a matter of pride not to be able to programme the video recorder. That's pathetic."

The writer David Hepworth pointed out something similar in a post on his blog entitled "Anyone who says they can't work their mobile or their Mac is just trying to draw attention to themselves". You can imagine the content, but it's well worth a read.

I don't mention this to make fun of my prospective lunch companion and his ilk, but as a warning to myself. It won't be long before I will be tempted to stop learning. I can already feel the curiosity arteries furring up.

But that isn't tenable in our world.

Hepworth has this to say about these willing technophobes: "How long can they - or anyone - keep this kind of thing up? They already sound like Victorian butlers whinging about the telephone."

I don't want anyone saying that about me.