Sophie Heawood: In a hi-tech age, we're losing the art of losing things

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It's not often I envy those with senile dementia, but the news that they could soon be tagged with satellite tracking systems did make me a little green.

The Alzheimer's Society called last week for sufferers, many of whom are prone to disappearing, to be fitted with techno tags like those decorating the ankles of early-release criminals, so families can locate their missing person. A splendid idea, but what about those of us and here I don't mean to be disrespectful with what might be called juvenile dementia? I'd love to be tagged and sent home myself, especially if by the 2am mark I was still to be found wandering the streets looking for misplaced kebabs.

And then there are all the inanimate objects that keep wandering off they need tagging too. It's all very well ringing your mobile phone when you can't find it, but what about when you lose your wallet and your keys, and for an initial euphoric split second think, oh I'll just ring them too? They cannot be rung. Nor can you Google them, as the same "this is how you find things" impulse in my brain has so often wrongly suggested in times of need.

And yet, and yet, it seems my madness is to become reality, as Google's latest ruse is to start helping us find not only websites but also things. Those clever Californians are now planning to slap something known as an RFID microchip on to highly losable everyday objects such as mobiles and keys, allowing you to locate the missing item from your computer. (Presumably via a map of the contents of your handbag? I'm not quite sure of the hi-tech details just yet.) We should have seen it coming there are already microchips in many of our pets, and even a few children.

When I recently interviewed the American rapper Akon, who was wearing the biggest, blingingest diamond watch I have ever seen, I asked whether he was frightened of somebody yanking it from his arm. Not at all, he replied breezily the watch's in-built tracking device means he can simply make a call and find out where the thief has taken it.

So why, if 2007 was the year of such developments in the lost and found department, did nobody manage to find the missing HM Revenue & Customs data CDs? Or a man floating around in a canoe? Or indeed hiding in a wardrobe?

Of course, for the rich and powerful, it may be possible to charm your way out of being found. Sir Richard Branson's Caribbean island, Necker, cannot be located on Google maps. Which is funny, because the co-founder of Google, Larry Page, managed to locate it to hold his recent wedding there with Sir Richard as best man. The two are now such close pals that it is surely only a matter of time before they join commercial forces and create Virgin Freeze: cryogenics to bring us back our dearly departed.

I'm not sure I want my dead back, though, thanks very much. As the Christmas holidays so succinctly reminded me, it's hard enough living with the living, so I think we should just be happy to let lost things stay lost.

"The art of losing isn't hard to master." wrote the poet Elizabeth Bishop. "So many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster ...". And yet soon, in our world of eternal returns, nothing will ever be truly lost again. Proust will no longer have to resort to madeleines to have his memories evoked, and those pesky weapons of mass destruction won't prove so elusive.

The joke in my Christmas cracker read: "What do you call a boomerang that doesn't come back? A stick." In the future that joke won't work. In the future there will be no sticks, only boomerangs.

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