Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Wrong Turn

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Wrong Turn

Article excerpt

If I ever suspected that, as a species, we've reached the end of the plank, I received confirmation today. I was on the way to a meeting somewhere in Holborn - I say "somewhere" because I am a digital settler and I do what digital settlers do: have no damn idea where I am. Normally I just turn up in the right city and trust Google Maps to apparate me to where I want to be. The Mars lander Beagle 2 had a clearer idea of where it was heading.

Fans of hubris will rub their thighs to hear that the moment I left the station, my phone went down like a domino. This left me about two minutes from where the universe needed me. I might as well have been in a labyrinth on the Moon.

I stood, gasping like a goldfish on grass. With five minutes before my meeting, my university-educated brain raced to these moronic solutions: a) find an internet cafe, b) buy a phone charger or c) lurk outside a Caffè Nero sponging up their wi-fi with my iPad. In other words, flip and flap until I found the bowl again.

Suddenly those corpulent, infantilised, chair-bound incapables from Wall-E don't look so unlikely. In one generation - one - we've gone from a nation of planners and map owners to marionettes, suspended by our charlies in a cloud of data that soothes and supports...until it stops.

I think the only reason that humanity has survived so long, against odds that suggested the universe constantly wanted to kill us, is because things were so intolerable that we had to devise ingenious ways of confounding our doom. Now we've become cosy, the urge is to herd ourselves into a coup and be left to the mercy of the machines. …

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