EXCLUSIVE - 10 things I’ve learnt about technology – by Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais spoke to Electricpig about his graveyard of Macs, why Twitter is the modern equivalent of graffiti on the toilet wall – and why it’s safer to get an assistant to switch the telly on…

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1. 80% of people use 20% of a gadget’s true potential

I’m in awe of technology, albeit not great with it. In one respect I have to call an assistant to turn the telly on, but in another I’m a gadget guru. I just love them, and I fit into the 80/20 thing, namely that I’m one of the 80% who uses only 20% of what an iPod, iMac, iPad, iPhone is for.

2. It’s probably a good idea to read the instruction manual. (Not that I do…)

I know I should get more out of my gadgets and it’s something I’ve tried to do over the past few years. But I never read instruction manuals. Take the Sky box. If something goes wrong with it, my partner Jane is going ‘Not that remote, no, that’s the TV, no, okay, you’ve just put the shutters down…’

3. You can’t blame technology when someone posts a racist comment on YouTube…

The internet is the biggest resource the world has ever known. But there’s a lot of misinformation as well. For all its freedom, there are downsides. People can say anything on there. You only have to look at some things on YouTube and it’s the most horrible, racist stuff. It’s carte blanche – and virtually anonymous. Technology isn’t to blame, whatever is vented isn’t to blame – people are thinking this stuff anyway.

4. A gadget made six months ago will look like it’s from the 1950s

I love anything with ‘i’ at the start of it – the iPod, the iMac, the iPad. And when you get to the iPhone – that’s just an incredible work of art. Technology these days isn’t just technology, it’s art, it’s objet d’art and has to be aesthetically pleasing. Because the technology is so innovative and fast-moving, a six-month old gadget runs the risk of looking really old. You go, ‘What’s that, like 1950s?’ ‘No, 2009!’

5. I don’t know how we lived before the mobile phone

Farmers voted the mobile phone the invention of the century. I suppose if you’re in a 1,000-acre farm, that saves you daylight hours. I don’t know how we lived before the mobile phone. I’ll call a mate on the way to him and go ‘Where are ya?’, and he’d go, ‘I’m here’. And I’d look ahead and say ‘Ah yes, there you are!’ I mean, what happened before? I remember leaving notes on pub doors saying ‘We’ve moved to The Horn’. How did we ever plan anything?

6. It won’t be long before someone shoots a movie on an iPhone

I don’t think it will be long before someone makes the first movie shot on an iPhone. Everything is broadcast quality now – even those HD Flip cameras. It’s only the lenses that are different. It’s remarkable – people are making their own movies or their own animation. Bedroom science.

7. Technology has moved civilization forward exponentially. (I know this by looking at my computer graveyard…)

In my room, I have a pile of iMacs that resembles a computer graveyard. I mean, it’s crazy what they can do when you consider that the computer that put man on the moon was the size of a room and had the power of a calculator! There’s nothing that has moved technology forward so exponentially as the computer. In a very short time – 50 years maybe – the world, civilization, has changed. And when you consider that only 1% of people in Africa have got a computer, we’ve not reached the ceiling by any means.

8. Technology has made ‘the idea’ more valuable than ever. (How else could three men with mics clock up 216million downloads?)

Take the Ricky Gervais podcast – 216million downloads, three blokes in a room with three old mics and a bit of foam. It’s amazing – you can speak to the world. And the thing with audio is that it stands up against any audio. You make a film, it’s not going to look like Avatar, but you record a podcast and it’s there, crystal clear. It makes you realize just how accessible the rest of the world is. I used to tell Karl who listens to the podcast – David Bowie, The Simpsons, etc. Then we found out that there was an Inuit listening to the podcast and Karl couldn’t come to terms with it. Quite mind-blowing, isn’t it.

9. Don’t fear progress

Technology is great for many reasons – progress should be embraced. It unifies the world. Plus, thanks to texting, you don’t even have to talk to people when you want to do an awkward blow-out…

10. Twitter is the modern equivalent of graffiti on a toilet wall…

[Twitter] is ‘out there’. It’s not like dealing with the press – you know who they are; they’re not anonymous. Nowadays with forums and Twitter, it’s like graffiti – it’s like walking round finding your name on every toilet wall. It seems weird.

Read Ricky’s blog at www.rickygervais.com

Life’s Too Short, starring (in ascending height order) Warwick Davis, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, is coming soon to BBC Two.

Meanwhile, Karl Pilkington will be back on Sky One with An Idiot Abroad: The Bucket List. Here’s a trailer…

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