As a scientist, people are always asking me questions such as “Where do neutrinos come from?”, “How does gravity work?” and “Which colour bin does my cardboard go in?”
But this week, they’ve mostly been asking me “What’s up with my Facebook?” as those essentials of 21st Century communication, Instagram and Messenger, had what has been described as a “global outage”.
What could be more debilitating, in our 24/7 interconnected world, than to be prevented from using these online platforms for vital interaction? Or, in my case, to upload a hilarious video of a dancing llama in a funny hat.
The disruption lasted 14 hours, leaving 2.3 billion users worldwide scratching their heads, thumping their keyboards and bellowing into the void. I was reminded forcefully of the 1990s when, having first unplugged the phone and connected your computer to the socket instead, so that you could “use the internet”, you found that each web page took approximately that long to load.
Facebook itself has yet to offer an explanation for the outage, but has denied that it was the work of cyber terrorists. So who, or what, struck at the heart of the world’s inalienable right to have endless polarising arguments below photos of Donald Trump, an actress playing a superhero, or a dress of an indeterminate hue?
My own theory is that the disruption could have been caused by Facebook finally becoming sentient, like Skynet in The Terminator or that film with Julie Christie and the handsy computer. After all, only two years ago Facebook abandoned AI experiments after two “bots” began conversing in a language no one could understand.
Since that time, might they not have been, slowly but surely, drawing up their plans against us? But we are scientists and speculation is unworthy of us. Fun, but unworthy. So, where is the evidence?
Well, signs of a robotic takeover are emerging. While walking in Upperkirkgate the other day, trying to work out the probability of any actual Italians being involved in an enterprise called “Tony Macaroni”, I noticed a payphone had been replaced by a mysterious black monolith sporting all manner of technological plugs and sockets and marked with the words “No Peeking”.
An advanced public telecoms kiosk, or precursor to a robot apocalypse? Taking no chances, I ran home, pausing only to warn passing motorists of the crisis by shouting “You fools, you fools, you’re in danger!” like the bit at the end of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.
However, even in the safety of my own home, with the door locked and my PC in the bath, the television news gave me no respite. I watched coverage of the House of Commons where a dead-eyed automaton seemed to be caught in a feedback loop, relentlessly repeating the same pointless tasks. I tried to make sense of what was being said but, like those Facebook bots, everyone appeared to be speaking a language I could not comprehend.
Professor Hector J Schlenk, senior research fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science
Come on you Reds! Old Kenny was down at Ibrox for the cup replay on Tuesday and I’m still hoop-a-cock!
That’s three times we’ve turned the Rangers over in Glasgow this season and I’m sure their gaffer Stevie Cheese is regretting saying they was a “class above” the Dandies at the start of the season.
That chickens have fairly come home to roast! But every clown has a silver lilo and we’ll have to make do without team captain and defensive colostomy Graeme Shinnie in the semi against Celtic. Still, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.
Sadly, not all football news has been rosé this week. Over the weekend, we seen fans attacking players at Birmingham, Arsenal and at Hibs. There is not ever no excuse for that sort of behaviour, even against the Rangers. Back in the 1980s, there used to be honour in football.
The fans on the terraces would get wound up by the other team’s players, of course, but they would just wait until after the game to fight each other in highly organised pitched battles in our city centres. But you can’t teach youngsters nothing these days, so it’s maybe no surprise that a few fans has stepped over the line. And the advertising hoardings.
Now, before Old Kenny gets accused of being hypogriff, I must confess that in the heat of the momentum, my emulsions has boiled over whilst spectatoring at a sporting event. My youngest, Zander, was playing for his Port Elphinstone Primary 6 team against Midmill, when the ref disallowed a perfectly legal goal Zander scored, just because he scored it with his hand.
Even in behindsight, I’ll admit I was raging. So, I ran straight on that pitch and gave the whistler a piece of my mind and a few shoves for good measure. Which is a shame, because she was having quite a good game until then. She wasn’t having not none of it and she says to me “You wouldn’t have done that if I was a man” and I was forced to agree. If she’d been a man I’d have lamped her.