Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 17/11/2004Scary stuff from Japan, where a study seems to suggest that computer use can cause blindness. I note that the researchers didn't say what it was that the subjects were looking at -- but it's clear that here's yet another way homo sapiens does not fit well into the world we've created for ourselves.

Wednesday 17/11/2004
Scary stuff from Japan, where a study seems to suggest that computer use can cause blindness. I note that the researchers didn't say what it was that the subjects were looking at -- but it's clear that here's yet another way homo sapiens does not fit well into the world we've created for ourselves.

I've been worried about spending my life in front of a computer screen ever since I worked for a while at a location close to some mountains. The feeling of acceleration I got when I walked out the office after a day's squinting at a terminal and my eyes tried desperately to focus on those big things away in the distance was not, I felt, a good sign. As the latest anthropological research seems to show that we evolved as a species of long-distance runners, presumably to wear down and catch prey that wasn't up to Paula Radcliffe standards, we must start to rebuild our workplaces in our own image.

Let's start with the monitors. While it's convenient to have everything presented as a flat page some two feet away from our eyes, doing this for many hours at a time can only be harmful. Better optics have to be designed so that every quarter of an hour or so the image appears to gently recede into the distance, leaving us staring gratefully at some glorious scenery, our work merely a distant speck in the deep blue yonder. Forget the desktop metaphor -- let's have the night sky, with objects presented as constellations of stars. Nobody remains unmoved -- or unhappy -- in a clear winter's night far from the city lights -- and it's a sterling way to exercise those peepers.

We can also take the African veldt as inspiration. Imagine that deadline as a graceful antelope, scampering off into the distance. With treadmills at our desks and VR glasses we could give chase, relieving tension and getting a blast of consciousness-enhancing endorphins as we track, chase and capture our target. Wouldn't that be better than prodding the mouse at an icon on a Gant chart?

With time, our whole lives can be returned to a state of prehistoric balance thanks to innovative technology. Although teleworking might be seen as a way to avoid commuting altogether, it can also be used to let us work in places neither home or office -- say, Hampstead Heath -- so we can recreate those great seasonal treks that some think were a feature of early life in the tribes. There's no reason why the hunter-gatherer lifestyle shouldn't coexist with being, say, a marketing executive or a financial consultant -- indeed, meetings with clients could be rather more exciting if one or both parties are clad in bearskins or other tribal items, such as phallocrypts.

Now that's what I call looking after your health.

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