There is something unnerving about the fact that news concerning the release and development of leisure technology is no longer reserved for a few column inches in the corners of our daily newspapers or for specialist monthly magazines purchased only by that fat kid in college with the glasses who, you always suspected, was doing something rather unholy with the camera he carried around his neck. You all know the kind of news I’m talking about: Screen of Samsung’s new tablet to have more colours than could be conceived of even in the mind of God; Sony’s new graphics engine more powerful than the Boxing Day tsunami; the launch of the new Samsung Galaxy Note, more thrilling than a hamster in a toilet roll. And so on.
News about new technology appears to be locked in a growing battle for lebensraum with our regular news, and the tech news appears to be winning. Stories about the new smart phone or the new tablet now appear in our papers prior to stories of real human significance: stories about human health, welfare and politics, stories about life and death. Yes, yes, another monk has torched himself to death over China’s oppression of Tibet... ooh, look a shiny new centralised speaker control system that doubles as a bathroom mirror. Isn’t life wonderful?
In some ways, this development is not necessarily representative of any general decline in the fabric of basic human morality or intellect. For decades, the moronic masses – and the most curious, seediest and laziest sides of those who really ought to know better – have preferred stories about talentless, cosmetically augmented, intellectually retarded, celebrities and royals over stories that concern persons and events of any real human significance. Indeed, entire hordes of perma-tanned, shiny-faced tabloid newspaper editors have amassed vast riches off the back of that sad fact (one even became a celebrity in his own right).
But, in another way, this surge in press coverage about gadgets and leisure technology, and the infrastructure that supports them, should give us some pause. At least celebrities are real living, breathing humanoids. At least their trials and tribulations, their successes and failures, their ups and downs (or lack thereof as far as the augmented ones go) are things that could, to greater or lesser degrees, inform the lives of their audiences. At least their experiences have some resonance with our own. For its part, technology is essentially inanimate, lifeless and cold. It can’t eat Kangaroo testes, wear a dress made of meat or adopt children from every corner of the globe. It doesn’t laugh or cry. It feels no pain.
There is an old saying that if a dog is a man’s best friend then the dog has got a serious problem. Well, in a psychoanalytic sense, we should be far less worried about that man and his dog than about the disciple of technology: he who favours circuit boards and brushed aluminium over flesh and blood, processing power over human emotion, platform compatibility over life and death. Heck, a man like that would probably kick his dog to death just to get his hands on the iPhone 5 two weeks before anybody else.
Of course no one could reasonably suggest that the press should not keep us informed about advances in technology, but only with any fanfare when there are great leaps forward, seismic technological shifts, which change the way we live our lives. No criticism could be levelled at the publication that placed the invention of the telephone, the computer or the internet on its front pages. But it must be that news about lesser developments - the latest upgrade to a mobile phone, camera or tablet, for example - should be left firmly where it belongs: not in the main body of our national newspapers but in the sticky pages of that fat, specky nerd from college’s magazine collection.