When I got home from holiday, I mentioned technology addiction to one of my friends. She said she was increasingly worried about her husband's obsession with his handheld computer. 'When he comes home from work, he's lucky if he manages 15 minutes talking to the kids before he switches it on,' she said. 'And he's glued to it for the rest of the night. Even during dinner he'd sit gazing at, and interacting with, this thing. I did eventually have to ask him if he could try not using it until the children were in bed.
Charlie Brooker: the dark side of our gadget addiction
We are addicted to gadgets – but what are their side-effects? In his new drama series, Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker explores the dark side of our love affair with technology * -------------------------------------------------
Daniel Kaluuya and Jessica Brown in Fifteen Million Merits. Photograph: Giles Keytes Every life includes significant landmarks: your first kiss, your first job, your first undetected murder. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, last week I experienced a more alarming first: my first unironic conversation with a machine. I was using the new iPhone, the one with Siri, the built-in personal assistant you talk to. You hold down a button and mutter something like "Set the alarm for eight in the morning," or "Remind me to ring Gordon later," and Siri replies, "OK, I'll do that for you," using the voice of Jon Briggs, better known as the voice of The Weakest Link. And he sets everything up, just the way you wanted. Siri is a creep – a servile arselick with zero self-respect – but he works annoyingly well. Which is why, last week, I experienced that watershed moment: for the first time, I spoke to a handheld device unironically. Not for a laugh, or an experiment, but because I wanted it to help me. So that's that. I can now expect to be talking to machines for the rest of my life. Today it's Siri. Tomorrow it'll be a talking car. The day after that I'll be trading banter with a wisecracking smoothie carton. By the time I'm 70 I'll be holding heartbreaking conversations with synthesised imitations of people I once knew who have subsequently died. Maybe I'll hear their voices in my head. Maybe that's how it'll be. The present day is no less crazy. We routinely do things that just five years ago would scarcely have made sense to us. We tweet along to reality shows; we share videos of strangers dropping cats in bins; we dance in front of Xboxes that can see us, and judge us, and find us sorely lacking. It's hard to think of a single human function that technology hasn't somehow altered, apart perhaps from burping. That's pretty much all we have left. Just yesterday I read a news story about a new video game installed above urinals to stop patrons getting bored: you control it by sloshing your urine stream left and right. Read that back to yourself and ask if you live in a sane society. When I was making the series How TV Ruined Your Life, we went out and asked members of the public to comment on a new invention we were claiming was real: a mobile phone that allowed you to call through time, so you could speak to people in the past or future. Many people thought it was real: not so much a testament to gullibility, but an indicator of just how magical today's technology has become. We take miracles for granted on a daily basis. Nonetheless, I relish this stuff. I coo over gadgets, take delight in each new miracle app. Like an addict, I check my Twitter timeline the moment I wake up. And often I wonder: is all this really good for me? For us? None of these things have been foisted upon humankind – we've merrily embraced them. But where is it all leading? If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side-effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is...