On a beach with no phone signal, I rediscovered the wonder of boredom

Someone

After an hour’s beach work I was just about done. I’d read some book, I’d skimmed the papers, I’d eaten some bits of cheese on some oat biscuits (the closest I’ll concede to picnics, which I hate), I’d drunk some water as per my instructions from the Fawn (‘Drink some water! You never drink enough water’), I’d dried off from the swim, I’d got a pair of very numb buttocks after sundry failed attempts to get comfy on the not very flat rock: surely I’d done enough now to earn my release.

Read the rest in the Spectator.

The Best Things in the World Have Always Sprung up by Accident. Take the Internet, for Instance

And almost everything bad is the result of utopians trying to plan the world into a better state.

Since no one has bothered to ask what my must-read book of last year was I’m going to tell you here: it’s Matt Ridley’s Evolution of Everything.

I don’t think it has appeared on nearly so many recommended lists as his previous bestsellers Genome and The Rational Optimist, nor has it been so widely reviewed. And I have a strong inkling as to why: its message is so revolutionary as to alienate pretty much everyone across the spectrum, from Christians and Muslims to corporate bosses, historians, feminists, educationalists and conspiracy theorists, from Greens and socialists all the way across (if there’s a difference) to Conservatives like George Osborne and David Cameron.

It also happens to be, in my view, as near as damn it to 100 per cent right about every subject it broaches, from the internet to bankers, from crop circles to education, from the nurture vs nature debate to religion. And no one likes a smart arse — especially not when he’s an Eton-educated smart arse with a title, an estate (built on coal-mining) and an unfortunate reputation as the man who was chairman of Northern Rock when it had to be bailed out by the taxpayer — do they?

What I find almost more interesting than the book, though, is the way it has been reviewed by those of a bien-pensant persuasion — most notably John Gray in the Guardian. He hated it. So much so, it’s pretty clear to me, that he couldn’t even bring himself to read it. Or if he did read it, he was so consumed by righteous rage that he couldn’t bring himself to address any of the utterly disgusting points made in the book.

There’s lots of invective and lofty contempt: ‘bumptious and tediously repetitive tract’; ‘if he was a more serious and reflective writer, Ridley might…’ [‘if he were’, surely?]; ‘a dated and mechanical version of right-wing libertarianism’. Plus, there’s a whole paragraph of ad homs, majoring on Eton, titles and Northern Rock. Precious little on what the book actually says.

Basically, what it says is that evolution is a phenomenon which extends far beyond Darwin to embrace absolutely every-thing. The internet, for example. No one planned it. No one — pace Al Gore and Tim Berners Lee — strictly invented it. It just sprang up, driven by consumer need and made possible by available technology. As Ridley says: ‘It is a living example, before our eyes, of the phenomenon of evolutionary emergence — of complexity and order spontaneously created in a decentralised fashion without a designer.’

Which is what, of course, is such anathema to control freaks everywhere, from the Chinese, Iranian and Russian regimes to Barack Obama, who famously declared in 2012: ‘The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet.’

Read the rest in the Spectator.

I’m So Addicted to Email, Facebook and Twitter, I Have to Hide It from My Wife

BEddie Mulholland Email I?m so addicted to email, I have to hide it from my wife Only connected: while writing this article, James Delingpole looked at 51 emails, joined a Facebook debate and checked his Twitter pages Photo: Eddie Mulholland

A friend of mine was driving his family back from their half-term hols in Cornwall and the journey was taking far longer than it should. Two hours in and Tom’s fingers were starting to twitch. After four hours, he’d had enough.

“What are you doing?” said his wife Kate.

“Er just, you know, um checking my emails,” said Tom.

“But we’re on the motorway, we’ve got two kids sleeping in the back and YOU’RE DRIVING!” Kate screamed.

When Kate told me this story over dinner the other day, I think she expected me to be horrified. But I’m afraid my sympathies were all with Tom. Sure, it’s not the safest thing in the world to be fumbling with a BlackBerry while simultaneously trying to steer your family down a motorway at 70 miles an hour. But when the voice in your head is saying “Must check those emails. Muuussst check those emails,” what is a guy supposed to do? Ignore it?

What Tom and I are apparently suffering from is the tyranny of email – which also happens to be the title of a despairing new book by John Freeman. Freeman, the editor of Granta magazine, decided enough was enough when he popped out with a friend for some coffee and came back 45 minutes later to find 72 new messages “marching down the screen like some sort of advancing army”.

According to Freeman, the communications technology designed to bring us together is driving us apart. Where once we used to interact with real people, we now content ourselves with shallow cyber-friendships on Twitter and Facebook, replacing meaningful conversation with terse 140-character messages and glib one-liners calculated to shock, amuse or annoy.

(to read more, click here)

Non-recoverable link.

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