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Nicholas Lezard: Invasion of the brain snatchers

People's intelligence now seems to reside in their gadgets

By the time you read this, an excited world will have been exposed to the latest gewgaw to come out of the Apple marketing department. It is called... but why waste everyone's time by naming it? You know what it's called, and I don't give a flying one.

For I am one of those people who does not feel the need to fetishise the technological accessory. I do not need a very expensive machine which tells me where the nearest restaurant is, or how to pick my nose, or how to amuse myself by playing with cartoon animals while waiting for a bus, for I have managed to live my whole life without one so far, and do not feel an emptiness in my life that can only be filled with the latest toy devised by Steve Jobs.

If the people from Apple come in their black helicopters to take me away and drop me in the middle of nowhere, then, yes, an application (I am resisting the word "app", not only an unnecessary contraction but an attempt, cf McDonald's, to assume ownership of the first syllable of their corporation's name) telling me where I was might come in handy; but whenever, out of curiosity, I type in my phone number on my children's iPod Touches to find my whereabouts, it invariably tells me I am in Crouch End. (The point being that I am not.)

This is not Ludditery, or the disappointment of one who has not been invited to a party everyone else is going to. This is genuine bafflement. Since when did people get like this, so pointlessly acquisitive? I remember at school being deeply impressed by a peer's new flash toy, but that was a while back and I have since learned to put away childish things.

So we are now approaching a critical divide in contemporary Western humanity. Maybe we have already reached it: that point where there are those who are light-years ahead with their uptake of new technology, and those too far behind to catch up, but who seem to manage perfectly well without. I still have the odd friend who survives without a mobile phone. While this makes them frustratingly unreachable at times, it means that they still have control over when and how they can be reached. (I particularly liked it when I was late for a rendezvous with one of them. He wrote "in the pub" on the back of an envelope and pushed it through my letterbox. "I got your text," I said when I hooked up with him a bit later. We survived).

It is as if everyone's brains and personalities have been sucked out; and such intelligence as they now possess resides only in their gadgets. Apple have always been keen to blur the distinction between one's own imagination and their products, and it would appear that a lot of people out there have assimilated the propaganda.

I rest my case because propaganda only works when people stop thinking. One wonders how such people would survive were they to be deprived of these accessories. Remember that the agents by which humanity was reduced to mindless zombiedom in Invasion of the Body Snatchers came in the form of... pods.