Meg tries to shake up lunchtime

GQ (Australia) - - SHE -

WORKER PRESUMABLYBEES AT AP­PLE (WHO AREN'T AL­LOWED TO GO HOME EVENUNTIL THEY'VE COME SCI­EN­TISTS,UP WITH AN­OTHER WORLD-CHANG­ING in­no­va­tion) RESEARCHERSneed a hobby. A bit of a side project to keep them busy AND­while the con­tents THEof their petri dishes ripen or the rh­e­sus mon­keys take an­nual leave. Or what­ever. I don’t know. Science and tech, and the peo­ple who do it, aren’t re­ally my bag. But what is my bag is be­ing miffed about small things – in­con­ve­niences and ev­ery­day an­noy­ances which, dis­ap­point­ingly, it seems like the in­ter­na­tional R&D com­mu­nity is do­ing noth­ing to solve. To be clear, I’m not ex­pect­ing sci­en­tists to ad­dress my one-per-cen­ter prob­lems dur­ing work­ing hours. I re­alise there are dis­eases to cure and genomes to map be­tween nine and, if they’re gov­ern­ment, half two. I’m sim­ply ask­ing that as an af­ter-hours thing, on the bus home or the frst day of hol­i­days when they’re still in ‘work mode’, they ap­ply some of their un­fair brain al­lo­ca­tion to any of the tiny, per­sis­tent scourges of mod­ern life. Desk lunches, for ex­am­ple. Af­ter a decade of work­ing from home and hav­ing the run of my own fully-stocked kitchen, I’ve re­cently re­turned to of­fce life to dis­cover in the 10 years that I’ve been ab­sent, hu­man­ity has made no dis­cernible progress to­wards im­prov­ing the sorry busi­ness that is of­fce lunches. Surely by now sci­en­tists, who might have grown a set of hu­man vo­cal cords from scratch, squirted mam­moth DNA into an ele­phant for fun and all but wiped out po­lio in the African sub­con­ti­nent, are closer to erad­i­cat­ing $10 tuna wraps? The mis­er­able lit­tle queue that forms in front of the com­mu­nal mi­crowave just be­fore noon re­mains a re­al­ity for a swathe of the white-col­lar pop­u­la­tion, their only sus­te­nance a sweaty Tup­per­ware of some­thing that wasn’t even that good last night –some­thing that, af­ter two min­utes on high, no longer boasts the same chem­i­cal prop­er­ties as ac­tual food. It’s true that in some of­fces you’ll fnd a for­ward­thinker who’s brought in a cheese sand­wich and will, come lunchtime, con­vert its atomic struc­ture into a jaffe by way of the break­room Bre­ville. And you’ll ad­mire him for it, be­cause at this point in hu­man his­tory, squish­ing two bits of Tip Top into a 60-watt sand­wich press crusted with a year’s worth of other peo­ples’ cheese rep­re­sents the apex of in­no­va­tion. What wor­ries me, though, is if the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor doesn’t step up; in an­other decade we’ll all be stand­ing at our foat­ing hov­erdesks mind-mes­sag­ing Siri’s grand­daugh­ter with the iphone ‘17S’ em­bed­ded in our tem­ple, paus­ing only for mouth­fuls of weirdly chewy risotto that’s still fridge-cold in the mid­dle. The same goes for house-hunt­ing. An­other re­cent item on my life to-do list. In the six years since I last moved, no mean­ing­ful ad­vance has been made. Yes, we have list­ing apps and ‘360 vir­tual tours’ but they’re no sub­sti­tute, in real terms, for phys­i­cally vis­it­ing 23 prop­er­ties in the same 15-minute win­dow of a Satur­day morn­ing. The only mod­est step for­ward, I’d say, is be­ing able to Facetime your part­ner (who is check­ing out a two-bedder one sub­urb over that’s open for the same 30 sec­onds) and try­ing to give them a feel for the laun­dry cupboard with the last 16 per cent of your bat­tery life. Mean­while, as huge strides are made in the science of ex­er­cise, there’s clearly noth­ing in the re­search bud­get left for reimag­in­ing the bit be­fore and af­ter your dis­ease-pre­vent­ing, life­span-en­hanc­ing, clin­i­cally-tested work­out. Find­ing a park out­side spin class, then re­al­is­ing you’ve only put one trainer in the bag and that a bot­tle of ho­tel body wash has leaked all over your work shirt, then try­ing to shower in a cu­bi­cle with a bung lock all re­main real and on­go­ing threats to men­tal health (and if you’re try­ing to shave in there, longevity). It’s my be­lief that solv­ing any of these is­sues would save millions of hours of hu­man cap­i­tal that could be rein­vested into cur­ing the com­mon han­gover or male pat­tern bald­ness. With fo­cused ef­fort, we could wipe out the ex­pe­ri­ence of fy­ing econ­omy class to Asia and re­place taxi driv­ers – who stop in the mid­dle of the lane while the tourist in their back­seat tries to work out which colour of note is a fve – with pro­gram­mable car­bots. In our life­time. Un­less of course, science isn’t up to the task. Per­haps the lead­ing minds of our gen­er­a­tion have al­ready tried and failed, and kept their ef­forts on the down-low be­cause of a nerd-sham­ing cul­ture in the lab. I mean, could it be so, when a dou­ble-phd spends sev­eral week­ends try­ing to work out what hu­man civil­i­sa­tion is sup­posed to do with its CDS? That he talks a big game about how, in the near fu­ture, no one’s telly cab­i­net is go­ing to be rammed with scratched copies of U2’s Zooropa and the Glad­i­a­tor sound­track, but fails be­cause some­one in his con­trol group dumped their whole col­lec­tion out­side Vin­nies be­fore the trial ended – would the other nerds just climb on him? Even if one day the same scientist de­vel­ops a sin­gle­dose, syne­thetic dough­nut that cures Type-2 di­a­betes, will his lab­mates ever let Cdgate drop? I’m not a scientist, but as I sit try­ing to scoop un­evenly-heated chicken curry into my mouth with a pair of dis­pos­able chop­sticks I found in my fling draw, I wish I was. n

MEG MA­SON

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