I want my digital frozen peas

We have frozen peas for dinner because the electricity supply is reliable and consistent. Why can’t broadband be just like the power utility?

Digital frozen peas

The title of this article is a total fib. An outright con. A massive misdirection. Because I don’t want frozen peas, physical or virtual.

What I want is what I had today. Deep fried chips (the British kind) with malt vinegar, “snake and pgymy pie” from M&S (use a search engine to work it out if culturally confused), Branston pickle, baked beans and a generous serving of hot, delicious, ooh just a few more please, gorgeous cooked peas.

I’m always reluctant to take selfies, and taking pictures of one’s own dinner strikes me a several rungs of respectability below that, heading towards clinical narcissism. So you’ll have to just put up with my stock image of frozen peas. As you might well know, frozen peas are not, in that state, particularly yummy. It’s an unappealing image. And that is why I don’t want frozen peas. Despite the title. Which is a lie.

However, frozen peas do have one redeeming property. They have the full potential to be turned into my dinner as cooked peas, and for that I hold them in very high esteem, despite their immediate inedibility and consequent delayed gourmet gratification. Furthermore, I can express an absolute preference to the offered alternative, which is rotting perished peas. For them, I have nothing but absolute contempt.

The great thing about modernity, apart from abundant supplies of gourmet chocolate by post, is the widespread availability of frozen peas. Indeed, it appears our civilisation is largely oriented around their storage and distribution.

Vast lots are given over to the retail of frozen goods, with massive infrastructure for transport to ensure delivery of packets of peas in thermal comfort from factory to store. Millions of people buy cars for their primary pea-gathering purpose, and you can see them congregate in vast numbers at frozen pea outlets during evenings and weekends.

Power stations are dotted around the countryside, with marching pylons dedicated to the uplifting moral cause of protecting frozen peas from the perils of waning permafrost. Huge manufacturing plants produce cavernous freezers for their storage in stores and in hundreds of millions of homes. GDP is gross delivered peas.

All over the world, people measure human progress in terms of their ability to participate in the global peaconomy. I can promise you, the true dividing line between poverty and prosperity is whether you are able to be with a pea when you feel peeved.

All of this is brought to us, and I must insert my fullest gratitude at this point, by the availability of a reliable electricity supply. For I have recently had news from a friend suffering ill health and lack of money, that when her prepaid metered electricity ran out, her frozen peas proved problematic and met with the defrosting demons. It’s a tragic thought, precious peas turning to fungus food.

Thankfully, this is a relatively rare thing in our developed world, as the dedicated efforts of many in the energy and electrical equipment world have kept us supplied with a constant flow of pea power to prevent anyone becoming pealess. It’s an affordable mass luxury, 230V at 50Hz for years without noticeable variation or a break in service.

This is rather in contrast to my broadband supply, which (in contrast to the hygienic freezer) is the digital equivalent of the smelly box you store food waste in for recycling. It’s not a good thing for anything that has sensitivity to the chronotoxin of time.

Today’s broadband breaks repeatedly, varies in quality continually, and is utterly capricious in the application performance it delivers. If electricity was like broadband, we would be in a mushy mess. Only those with the land to grow peas close to home would ever taste them anything like fresh, since nobody else could afford their transport. (And, as my grandparents owned a farm and I used to spend childhood summers shelling perfect peas, I know my pods from my pulses.)

Now, one can imagine how in that situation there would possibly be many beneficiaries of pealess produce. Some might palm you off with processed peas in tins, and our job would be to repel their inferior offer. Others would no doubt flog you broad beans as “best effort peas”. Don’t be taken in. And then some would be “fruity neutralists” (peas are a fruit, you do know?) demanding that precious peas be given the same transport as pears and plums.

What’s worse, we might assume that, having never experienced the modern peaconomy with reliable electricity and assured sub-zero storage, that this was the way it is supposed to be. All the workarounds for poor pea produce and pealessness would be touted as virtues. The suppleness of consumers in adapting to pea poverty would be evidence of the need for professionals to manage the poor’s access to peas.

My suggestion to you is that we can do much better. The equivalent of the deep freeze for broadband isn’t yet being built and sold. The broadband peaconomy is stuck in a pre-pea state, depriving the public of much-needed pleasure and protein.

It is not because we lack the technology for the appliances. Oh, no. And it certainly isn’t because the populace is peaphobic. The demand for simulated presence (of people, not peas) is pervasive. And we’ve solved all the maths for engineering a predictable high-quality supply (although on reflection it might have been better to call it ∆P instead of ∆Q).

The reason is because the “power supply” is stuck in a technical and economic model that people have confused for the end state. What we have is only a prototype that demonstrates the demand for broadband frozen peas. And we need to get on with building the digital frozen peaconomy as soon as we can.

Why so? Because, if I tell you honestly, the M&S pie was also frozen. And there is ice cream too lurking in the bottom freezer drawer. For those, there is no possible substitute, and no availability without the engineered reliability of the frozen peaconomic infrastructure.

And that’s the truth.


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