If the pace of invention continues at the rate suggested by the preceding pages, the world will become a really boring place. The human species needs its daily grapplings with the illogical, the clunky, the imperfect if it is to preserve that which separates us from animals and household appliances. Man likes doing some things the hard way, the wrong way, the old-fashioned way. And too often, an invention that solves one superficial problem creates profound new others. Four new inventions in particular must be blocked at all costs if humanity as we know it is to survive.
1) THE NONRECALCITRANT TOASTER: Somebody soon is bound to smash the worldwide small-household-appliance cartel's plot to foist $50 toasters built with 10[cent] engineering on a groggy breakfast-time America. The prospect of a toaster that quickly pops up perfect golden-brown slices every time is to be dreaded. Will the toaster swallow the slice, then hold it in its stubborn grip until it's a hunk of smoking charcoal? How many times in a row will you have to insert a slice, only to see it instantly pop back up again? Set the dial to WELL DONE, and the "toast" that emerges five long minutes later is pale yellow. Exactly! The recalcitrant toaster must not die. It's this very duel of wits between man and machine, the struggle to outguess the little bastard's endless treacheries, that snaps the dozing mind awake every morning, sharpening it for the challenges of the day ahead.
2) THE HIP PILOT: All that's keeping the human element alive in an ever more relentlessly robotic info-storage world is a few square inches of warm, floppy leather in our hip pocket: the wallet. The wallet, where strangers' business cards go to be forgotten, where 10,000-lire bills from a three-year-old Italian vacation retire, where 1997 restaurant receipts and 1994 family snapshots dwell. Where it takes 10 minutes not to find what you're looking for amid the detritus stuffed over the years into that labyrinth of folds and pockets. And where, occasionally, you come across a long-lost $50 bill. But you can bet some high-tech smarty-pants is close to hatching the archefficient Hip Pilot, the virtual wallet, the transformation of all that comforting confusion into so many tiny green symbols on a handheld thingamajig. It can't happen. It must not happen.
3) THE PERFECTED HOME PICTUREPHONE: Any day now, engineers are going to figure out how to make videophones cheap enough for someone besides the chairman of Goldman Sachs to use at home. But "now" is the postderegulation telephonic age and the heyday of high-powered telemarketing. Do you have any idea what this means once the Picturephone becomes a common household appliance? It means: "Hi, I'm Kathie Lee Gifford singing the Trans-Vox Long Distance Weekend Offer Song!" "It's me, John Madden, inviting you to sign up now for a low-interest KashKard!" "Got a minute? I'd like to show you how Lightfinger Securities can double your income--in hours!" It means, in short, the power of both spoken word and moving image harnessed to harass you with a hundredfold more annoying, unsolicited dinnertime calls. Still want the Picturephone?