workshop

When did it become too much of an effort for us to twist a tap on and off? Who invented the electric tap and why haven’t they been put in stocks for the public good?

Picture the scene. It’s the night after Ed Miliband’s election victory in 2015, Labour is about to freeze domestic fuel prices and now, in revenge, the utility companies are delivering a complete black-out.

As Britain powers down, you’re sitting on the loo in the dark. You can’t flush the toilet or wash your hands because, when you upgraded your bathroom, you decided both should be electrically powered. As you struggle with your trousers round your ankles to get outside and run your hands under the old-tech water butt in the garden, you realise some unpalatable truths about the next few hours.

All 25 of your clocks will need resetting. You haven’t got any briquettes to barbecue the meat that’s defrosting in your freezer. Your sav blanc is getting warm. Your hard drive won’t be recording Sue Perkins’ bon mots on Great British Bake Off. All The Sims on your iPad are going to die because you can’t care for them. Most unacceptably of all, you realise, your phone battery’s dead, you can’t recharge it and so you won’t be able to tweet your outrage or update your Facebook status to angry (with an emoticon you’re quite fond of, featuring steam coming out of its ears).

And I will be there, tittering away. I want to front up. For years now I’ve been driven mad by the ever-increasing electrification of our world. Without wishing to go the way of Bear Grylls and Oswald Spengler in indicting western decadence, the history of the decline of humanity could be written detailing the series of putatively labour-saving prostheses that have saved us time, reduced distances and minimised the need for human effort, but that have also ensnared us in lifestyles of idleness and fatuity.

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