Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 14/06/2005What is it with wristbands?. I will admit to wearing a rather tatty macrame affair a la Keith Richards, in my ponytail days, but now they seem to be official issue for Government ministers and fey young things alike.

Tuesday 14/06/2005

What is it with wristbands?. I will admit to wearing a rather tatty macrame affair a la Keith Richards, in my ponytail days, but now they seem to be official issue for Government ministers and fey young things alike. There's something slightly sinister about them and their regimentation of compassion, as if going about with an unadorned wrist is a sign that you don't care enough or in the right way.

Nokia, ever sensitive to trends among the image makers, is keen to get one on the wrist too. The company has the bright idea that not only could an active wristband contain a phone - not in itself a daft idea - but that with RFID technology it could interact with the surroundings. Walk into a shop, and your wristband will tell the retail machinery what you like buying and how much you want to spend. It can also use motion sensors to detect hand gestures and use these to control home electronics, although exactly where the combination of wrist-powered computing and high resolution multimedia will lead us is an exercise best left to Viz magazine.

But imagine what would happen when the charities get onboard. It's bad enough with the chuggers who cluster around Tower Hill tube with their clipboards and tabards, sensing with predatory accuracy when a passing journalist is too hung-over to put up a decent fight. Once the wristbands gang up on us, broadcasting to their accomplices that their wearers once paid ten quid to War on Want or Save The Tories, there'll be no end to it. Go to a cashpoint and it will primly suggest that while you're there, you might as well transfer a fiver to Oxfam. Go to a bar, and sensors behind the counter will direct the staff to serve first those who have been most generous in their giving. A whole silicon-moderated class structure will grow up, gradually pushing those who don't cough up - or through an old-fashioned sense of modesty, prefer to do so in private - into second-class status.

The Government, always keen to encourage social conditioning where it means they have to spend less public money on that darn public, will push the whole idea just as far as it can. From there, it's just a short step to limiting access to charity-funded public services to those wearing the right wristbands and voila. A completely controlled, self-funding country and nobody actually needed to introduce ID cards.

So, be warned. This is what will happen if you wear one of those plastic fripperies and own a Nokia mobile phone. They are the harbingers of universal slavery, and must be abjured.