Locks and keys

More walkies. More food. No wine. I’m happy and replete and warm and well.

Last night at 2.45am I was pulled out of dream by a high pitched and loud beeping noise, growing more and more frequent until I had no choice but to pull myself from sleep entirely to investigate. I quickly ascertained it was coming from outside our door, as if someone was hitting a button repeatedly with incredible patience. In a state of readiness I threw open the door, but there was nobody there. It’s the battery on the lock. It’s an alarm to say that the battery on the lock is running out.

Theodorus of Samos is the name that history has chosen to attribute the first key to. Pliny named him, so evidently the first that Pliny had come across and we all know how these inventions often get credited to the loudest copycat or the one who was best at business. Theodorus was putting his stuff about some six thousand years before the clocks were reset into AD with the Nazarene prophet. Theo still gets a mention.

Keys were, of course, around much longer than that. They work. They work really well. Archaeologists found a clever little wooden one in Mesopotamia excavating the ruins of Nineveh. The Egyptians were at it too. Everybody for as long as we have been people with things that other people might want to make theirs – they’ve all been at that business of making and honing and making and honing keys and locks and mechanisms to open and close and seal and lock.

1778 London and Robert Barton the locksmith almost certainly didn’t invent the tumbler lock but by God he patented it in good old blighty the heart of the empire and so he has won the internet about who made tumbler locks. He didn’t I’m sure. But he ticked the box and somebody else probably died in poverty.

Over to Norway now and Tor Sørnes born in 1925 started having clever thoughts in the seventies. They say that we have passed a tipping point. That all the great inventions have been invented and now it’s just people making things worse. At fifty years of age, Tor patented a keycard lock that was taken over to Atlanta a few years later and became the basis for the complete fuckery that woke me up last night. It was recodable. Secure for hotels you see, where maybe I could stay one night, get a copy cut, and rob all the future guests. Arsehole prevention. Necessary? You tell me. Maybe…

My lock was running out of battery. It doesn’t know what time it is. But if it is running out of battery it starts shouting and it has no idea if everybody is sleeping or not. (I suspect there was a lot of life left in it – these things are all about creating a dependency). At 3am I find myself walking across this mountaintop complex shivering in a bathrobe in order to try and find the night porter.

I had to wake him up. I played him a video of a beeping lock. He came with a new lock and a tool box. With me holding his phone torch, he took the screaming lock off the door and replaced it with a brand new one. My Spanish is terrible, as is his English. But we are two men grumbling. “Key. Forever. Now this shit.”

We do insist on fucking with things we really don’t need to fuck with. We think we are so clever as we ruin everything. Look at what’s going on in AI. Just because we can we are once more going into a technology too hard and too fast. It will grow exponentially. We can’t predict how it is going to get out of hand, but these language models are not going anywhere healthy for us long term. In quest to prove what we can do, we are making things that will ultimately do the equivalent of waking us up at 3am. Or something much worse.

Anyway, theres a new lock now and we can only operate it with a code.

I still slept well, and today was relaxing and calm and happy. One more night here. Hopefully an uninterrupted sleep and joy abundantly before I hit the boat and gradually pick my way home.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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