Walking with 21st-century dinosaurs

`Another 20th-century relic was called a "stapler". Nobody today knows what it was used for...'

SCIENTISTS HAVE discovered the remains of what may have been the largest business corporation of the early 21st century. All that has been found so far is a small electronic memo from head office to all branches, but businessologists have been able to extrapolate the real size of the megacorp from that, and they now reckon that it was the largest ever known.

"We're going back to AD2010 or 2020," says Dr Ephraim Hustler, "a time which we know to have represented the zenith of the monster business corporations. Nowadays, of course, we know all about the Third Law of Business, which states that survival probability is in inverse ratio to growth rate, but they didn't know that then. Of course, we're going back a good few centuries, and it's hard to get inside the mind of a 20th-century person, but it seems that they were fatally capable of believing two opposite things at the same time."

Dr Hustler pauses, and shuffles some of the 20th-century antiques on his desk. A mobile phone. A 2-D TV set. A piece of "paper".

"For a start," says Dr Hustler, business research Fellow of North Bournemouth Polytechnic, "people knew that the second millennium ended at the end of 2000, but they all celebrated a year early. They all heralded the arrival of the Internet, but forgot that it was just an information exchange process, not a physical enabler. They knew that size led to cumbersome inefficiency - that's how the dinosaurs died out - but still insisted on creating bigger and bigger companies and bigger and bigger federal states, and seeing globalisation as the way forward. A few voices were raised in protest, saying that it all contained the seeds of its own destruction, but they were ignored. The 21st century was a time when size was all, when best- selling was thought to mean best..."

Dr Hustler pauses again and picks up another 20th-century relic. It was called a "stapler". Nobody today knows what it was used for. Something to do with "paper", perhaps?

"The interesting thing is that these monster corporations managed to get big even without any clear function. Several seem to have specialised in making running-shoes, although people took less and less exercise. Two huge corporations, called Pepsi and Coke, did nothing but sell fizzy brown flavoured water. Not only had the two products little obvious attraction, they were almost identical, yet these giants spent millions battling to establish their own tedious brand. To us, they were clearly doomed. At the time, it must have seemed as if they would live for ever."

Dr Hustler picks up a small disc with string wrapped round the middle, which he often likes to play with. It is called a "Yo-Yo". Nothing else is known about it, but its sheer lack of function suggests some sort of religious significance.

"Anyway, we have now discovered that Coke and Pepsi were not the biggest conglomerates to walk the Earth. If our reconstruction is accurate, a far larger one seems to have flourished just after 2000. As far as we can tell, it was a dispenser of entertainment and news (though they made little distinction between the two in those days) formed by a merger of half a dozen giants. One was called the BBC, one was called Sky, one News International. Anyway, it was huge. Those who believed size was progress must have thought it represented the future. They thought the same about the ship called Titanic, a plane called the Brabazon, and about nuclear weapons..."

Dr Hustler smiles.

"Did you know that my place of study, North Bournemouth Polytechnic, was once part of a huge educational complex called the South Coast University, which stretched from here to Brighton? Absolute madness. All part of the mania for gigantism, globalisation, conglomeration and all the other diseases that nearly killed us in the 21st century, before we managed to start thinking straight. Just in time."

Dr Hustler sighs, and picks up a 20th-century wooden carving. It is in the shape of a cross and has a man on it. He is clad only in what seems to be a bath towel. It was clearly once very significant. Our scientists still have not cracked its meaning, but think it may have been just a good luck charm from a superstitious and ignorant age.

Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice