Techno prisoners

Technology has improved our lives in many ways - of that that there can be little doubt. From washing machines to windscreen wipers; from fridges to flat screen televisions, a steady parade of new and beguiling goods has frequently sprinkled stardust over the mundanity of our everyday lives, especially during the last few decades. In fact, it would be very easy to drown in a sea of smug self-satisfaction if we stopped to list all the wonderful technological blessings that we've been privy to in our time. But wait.

Aside from the many marvels available to us, there are two other categories of technological innovation to consider: the 'take it or leave its' and the 'for-pity's-sake-that-actually-made-our-lives-worse-not-betters'.

Electric toothbrushes and dish washers can undoubtedly be lumped into the first group. Occasionally you'll meet someone who uses an electric toothbrush and, without fail, before you can say 'lazy lump of lard' they'll regale you with unsolicited tales about Guatemalan dental experts who say your mouth will explode by Tuesday if you don't use one. I'm afraid they simply can't bear to admit the truth - their purchase was nothing more than a capricious folly.

Similarly, couples with dishwashers seem to be perpetually embroiled in an ongoing bickerfest concerning what the angle of the pans next to the serving spoons should be. That's when they're not actually washing the pots by hand before putting them in the machine because, paradoxically - and, indeed, laughably - it's what the manufacturers recommend in order to guarantee that the contraption works properly. Only vaguely deluded people own a dishwasher. They sometimes also own an electric toothbrush and always have their divorce lawyer on speed dial.

This brings us nicely to the third category of technological innovations, mentioned above. Space limitations here preclude me from listing the many absurdities that undoubtedly fall into this group, so let's go straight to the winner: bluetooth earpiece thingies. Good God, they're not possessed of one single redeeming feature. Even if you were lucky enough to buy the only pair in Western Christendom that actually fits the shape of the human ear, and thus avoid the ignominy of being perpetually bent over at ninety degrees picking them out of flower beds and gutters, the batteries last an average of one point four nano seconds and the corresponding voice that warns you that the daft things are about to give up the ghost and you're going to miss the best bit of your favourite programme (again), sounds as if it belongs to a serial killer demanding a hefty ransom in exchange for nothing in particular.

Technology, then, has quite clearly brought us joy and wonder in equal measure. It's the quiet despair lurking in its lengthy shadow that we're loath to mention.