Reality bites

Reality bites - Far from being liberating, IT feels enslaving. E-mail becomes a daily tyranny, the mobile phone a corporate electronic tagging device.

by RICHARD REEVES, a consultant and business writer

Far from being liberating, IT feels enslaving. E-mail becomes a daily tyranny, the mobile phone a corporate electronic tagging device.

Our relationship with technology has always had an on-off quality about it. Even the Romans - who have done plenty for us, technologically speaking - were sometimes ambiguous. Emperor Vespasian, rebuilding Rome after Nero's tumultuous reign, rejected plans for a new lifting machine that would cut the numbers of workmen employed lifting stones on the grounds that 'I must feed my poor'.

The Luddites who smashed the machines that threatened their livelihood were heroes of their day. But once we'd got used to the idea of machines doing work, the upsides of science and technology became more apparent: trains, medicine, sewers, telephones. Technology and progress have largely gone hand-in-hand for at least a couple of centuries - so much so that 'Luddite' has been a shorthand term of abuse for those few unenlightened souls standing against the onrush.

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