Thursday, 28 November 2013

Making a Luddite of a Vicar?

Or making a stand for real people and quality provision?

That was the position I found myself in this week as I sorted a funeral with a crematorium I've never visited before.

The first challenge came when I asked about the CD and was told that their system didn't use CDs. 'What you need to do is tell us what pieces of music you want and we get them from the catalogue and send them to the player through the internet!' 

Those who know me will also know that I am all for technology so I merely wondered why (out loud) I couldn't merely bring a couple of mp3 tracks on a USB stick (or email them) rather than have them source what I already had. But this wasn't how they did it!

Then we moved on to the hymns and I was offered  the organ or other instruments with or without voices. 'Oh!' said I, 'You don't have an organist then?'

'No, we have a computerised system. It's much simpler for everyone,' came the response.

So I explained that having a real organist means that they can 'track' the people singing so that they play to accompany the people singing rather than the people struggle to sing to the regimented and rigid rendition of the computer. The horror of a computerised 'organist or worship band in a box' is that it plays whatever it plays regardless of pitch, tempo or number of verses the people will be singing! (A 'for instance' being the fact that I have been subjected to the blessed band in a box systems giving me one verse too many or few as the device saw fit and there was either silence (or sound) accordingly.

'No one has ever said anything like that before,' came the (obviously surprised) voice at the other end! 'Using the computerised system is a much easier way of doing it because you don't have to pay for an organist and it's all automated.'

An there, perhaps, my friends lies the real reason. It's all about cutting expenditure (so does the charge to the customer drop accordingly I cynically wondered).

I didn't ask if the customer had to pay for the music tracks that have to be 'bought from the catalogue' (although again I assume that they do)!

Seems to me that computer generated music is another area when humans are being replaced by machines and wonder how lone it will take before we're all serviced by computers and only the privileged few will be able to work. The worst Sci Fi scenario appears to be heading towards being reality :-{

As a postscript I must relate the experience of a shop in Birmingham which has now been refurbished to have two check-outs with human operators and eight 'serve yourself' checkouts (with one staff member to assist). A loss of six staff (and that's on 'how many shifts?") - how long before computer Vicar is with us?

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