When The Robots Take Over

Originally published in Maroon View: Issue 15, August 7th 2015

I ask myself occasionally: why do we, the programme team, even bother to produce a brand new match programme each week? This is an admittedly harsh stance and a controversial one at that. I confess it’s a trail of thought that only tends to creep in around the 2:00am mark when I am hungry for sleep yet chained to the dim light of the computer screen, desperately finalizing the details of a dangerously late edition.

Galway United have an excellent social media team: a stellar, volunteer-run website that’s up there with the best in the league; access to near-24-hour updates directly from the club; we can follow our favourite players through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. As ‘Johnny-5’ would say, we are blessed with as much ‘INPUT’ as we can humanly absorb. (I’m putting it out there now, I think Johnny-5 should be our good editor Johnny Ward’s new mantle - help me make it happen people.) Information which is for the most part free and just a finger’s touch away.

So why even bother?

I stumbled upon a scary reality recently. As an Animation Designer, which is my 9-6, I work exclusively digitally. Every image I create is drawn directly onto a large touch-screen artists’ monitor called a Wacom Cintiq. All artwork is stored locally, on a separate dedicated server as well as in the ‘cloud’. Seemingly safe: but the reality is all the files, even if backed up infinitely, will one day become obsolete. A jpg is a perfect example of my conundrum. This is the file format most commonly used for creating/storing photographs. Not many people realize the compression method jpgs use is ‘lossy’ meaning that some of the original image information is lost and cannot be restored each time the file is saved - irreversibly affecting the image over time. From the moment I click save, every photo I take is slowly dying.

My ever increasing ‘back ups’ - whether online or offline - are nothing more than a decaying life sentence I am burdened to carry forward. My digital life stored as decomposing 1s and 0s.

Memories too share a similar fate. Researchers have uncovered evidence suggesting that when someone recalls a memory, the reactivated connection is not only strengthened but becomes temporarily susceptible to change, a process called memory reconsolidation. In essence scientists are exploring the possibility that memories aren’t stored as once believed. Instead, when we recall a particular instance the memory is brought forward, reinterpreted based on our current state of mind and experience, and re-saved as a new memory slightly altered from the original.

So where does this leave us? The uncomfortable truth is: all the websites we frequent will one day meet their eventual demise. The social media identities we currently spend so much time nurturing will too reach a societal impasse.

I am by no means suggesting the solution is one should disconnect from the digital verse. We are entering an intriguing period in humanity. Life experiences are leased, rather than acquired. Films and music streamed not owned. Photos shared publicly not printed/locked away. The digital sphere should be looked upon as an extension of the verbal traditions of old. An integral evolution of human communication.

So that brings me back to my initial query, if the future is digital. Are we old-fashioned to still print a programme? Let me first pose a different question: based on that logic, should we even bother attending live matches?

I can not even begin to describe to you the joy I experienced at last Monday’s semi-final bout against Dundalk. As I sat in the singing section of the booming Comer stand with my friend Shane, the raw emotion of the event pulsed through the seats. You cannot capture that feeling. You cannot share it. You have to experience it. My heart was literally racing for the last 80 minutes. The palpable tension of the penalty shootout alone makes up for the years of struggles we as Galway United fans have experienced. We are part of something special. All of us. The fans, the players. These moments we share although fleeting are the truest form of human experience one could ever hope to even attempt to pass on to generations to come.

The match programmes we produce each week should be seen as tiny time capsules. Week in week out, hundreds of these historic documents are released to destinies unknown. Many will end up on bookshelves and attics. Others on ebay. An occasional few will meet a more tragic demise at the end of a bin. But some will survive. Some will carry on the message that we were here. We shouted ‘There’s only one Dave O’Leary’ We shook the stands. Ger saved those goals. Stephen scored. Dave scored. Jake scored. Colm scored. We won.
Thank you for buying the programme. Thank you to our sponsors for backing our ‘old fashioned venture’. Thank you to the photographers for capturing these magic moments. Thank you to the all the programme contributors for their tireless commitment.

When the robots do take over and delete the internet. Rest assured, our history is safe. Across post apocalyptic plains, fluttering in the scorched breeze a lone sheet of paper will cling defiantly to a rock, emblazoned with the tarnished words:

‘Galway United Reach EA Sports Cup Final’.

- Morgan O'Brien