AMONG the many misused words littering modern communication there is surely none more abused than smart.
It has several meanings. These include clever, quick-witted, brainy, shrewd, astute and intelligent. Other synonyms on offer include savvy, perceptive and quick on the uptake.
Thus expectations run high of any product or service that is labelled as smart.
But the dictionary errs. In today’s world of finger-clicking clever dicks (and dickesses) the direct opposite now applies.
Smart motorways have been unmasked as death traps.
Smart meters are a pathway to misinformation and overcharging.
Smart cards are greedily gobbled up by the machines they are fed into.
Smart apps lead their users into an insoluble maze of confusion and endless frustration.
Smart cars should only be driven by those with a death wish.
Smart parking is spreading at pandemic pace yet often depends on mobile phone signals and negotiating complex procedures.
As for those allegedly essential helpful companions, the smart speakers anthropomorphised with names such as Alexa and Siri, one can only ask Why? Especially as their default response is too often to ask “I did not catch that . . .” or “Did you mean . . .?”
They are gobby descendants from vast and ever-growing clan of virtual assistants. These are recruited and employed by businesses seeking to put even greater distance than already exists between themselves and their long-suffering customers.
Assistance is the last thing they provide. Smart they are not.
It has taken several avoidable deaths and coroners’ warnings for National Highways (UK) to at last admit that stranded drivers are less likely to be killed or injured on highways with hard shoulders than on so-called smart motorways.
But still they exist, although at least the government has eventually cancelled plans to extend this blatantly un-smart and deadly system.
Elsewhere in motoring hell, bureaucratic brainiacs have decided parking meters are passe. As is cash.
Henceforth the only way to pay to park our cars is by use of yet another app linked to yet another smart card. A system that Age UK reckons almost 40 per cent of over-65s have problems understanding or using.
Such autocratic action might just be acceptable if the damned things actually worked. And if the failure rate was not so demonstrably high.
The app-addicted dickheads who decide such things need to raise their eyes from their phone screens for a minute or two to understand not everyone has the required phones; that there is a large segment of society not fluent in their use.
The queues at the pay machines are getting longer, followed by more problems when the exit barrier fails once more to respond.
It is an extension of the supermarkets’ love affair with smart checkouts. Clicking the button saying “Using own bag” ensures a snarky instruction to remove said bag and wait for a human being to override the system.
And so frustrated shoppers now scan all items without bagging them. Only after payment do they start loading their bag. Which causes the delays the system is intended to avoid. So smart!
But nothing beats the determination of the energy companies to have us install smart meters. One pleading message a week is guaranteed; but often more – text messages, emails and phone calls (which go straight through to the answerphone).
Apparently these smart devices are essential to our economic and personal wellbeing. And are a government requirement. Really?
Yet the letters’ pages, online chat groups and anti-social media in general tell another story. Of breakdowns, of lack of installers, of overcharging, of erroneous bills and a general uselessness.
Ten per cent of those that have been installed have been found to be fault. That’s about three million of the little blighters.
If there are lights on in three rooms, we can see that without needing a meter; if the dishwasher is on, we know it is – we were the ones who loaded it. Same goes for the microwave, or the two computers in use at the same time, and the TVs on in the lounge and in the offspring’s bedroom.
So we’ll not be surprised by this month’s bill. It’s our fault and it is in our hands to fix it. A meter, smart or otherwise, will not do it for us.
And best to do a name check on anyone offering to help; Smart Alecs are definitely not wanted.