Ever since about 1998, when humankind began fast- forwarding through the gradually-unfolding history of progress, like someone impatiently zipping through a YouTube clip in search of the best bits, we’ve grown accustomed to machines veering from essential to obsolete in the blink of a trimester. VHS, the Walkman, fax machines, CD-Roms, pagers, dial-up modems . . . all consigned to the same wing of the museum housing the mangle and the horse-drawn plough.

The junk mountain grows by the day. If your home is anything like mine, it contains several rarely explored crannies stashed full of archaic chargers, defunct cables, and freshly antiquated gizmos whose sole useful function in 2011 is to make 2005 feel like 1926, simply by looking big and dull and impossibly lumpen. Everyone’s opened a drawer and been startled by the unexpected discovery of an old mobile phone that now resembles an outsized pantomime prop.

The problem is that the body is the final, crucial buffer between the skittish human mind and the slavish machine servant. Think of how many furious email responses you’ve composed in haste, only to halt and reflect at the final moment as your finger hovers over the “send” button. The simple fact that a small physical action is required to actually deliver the damn thing is often enough to give pause for thought.

When mind-controlled computers become a commonplace reality, you’ll have typed and sent that message in the time it takes to stub a toe; as quick as pulling a facial expression, but more detailed, and full of swearwords.

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