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electricity

Indefinable
Beneficial: essential for trams, and of course for the Internet
Regrettable: allows amplification and portable telephones. If I ruled the world...
E/003

Indefinable

Could we perhaps settle for calling it a force? It has much in common with water, and much in common with the wind, yet though drowning is an everyday occurrence I feel at bottom more scared of electricity than I do of water. Not like the designers cited in one or other of my obsolete works of reference, who even came up with an electric tablecloth: the idea was that it included positive wires running east-west and negative wires running north-south, and the smart society hostess could run table-lamps, chafing dish, coffee machine and so on just by putting them on the table - little prongs in the base of each appliance would take care of making contact. Aaargh!

Beneficial

Where would we be without the clean and obedient service of trams? Or, indeed, electric trains, though these have never won my affection in the way that trams have. Of course, there are always other forms of motive power, such as steam. Or naphtha. Or clockwork. Or compressed air The ingenuity that went into self-propelling vehicles is simply startling.

E-mail aside, there often are (or have been) non-electric ways of doing things we now flick a switch for; trying these older ways often helps us appreciate the new ways better.

Regrettable

No pause for suspicion and hesitation here – show me the button to push and I would unhesitatingly rid the world of electric amplification, free it from the intrusive tyranny of portable telephones. We should have to make our own music or adjust to appreciating silence, though of course a whole slew of devices from musical-box to calliope would have their part to play. If the windows rattled, it would be from a passing brass band and enthusiastic side drum, not from a dork who's built his car round a disco-sized sound system. And if you want to contact someone in a hurry, you send a telegraph or a pigeon.

Megalomania

Fear not, gentle reader. If I ruled the world, I'd resign.