Kevin Maher: Welcome to the future — it’s a DIY nightmare

Apparently robots will soon take over the cooking, cleaning and ordering of groceries in households. It’s nonsense

Finally, housework is dead. The days of chores are numbered. Doing mundane stuff such as cleaning, cooking, washing up and DIY will, in a matter of years, be an anachronistic joke. Or at least if you believe the hype und drang emerging from the Futures Institute, Futurizon (I know, awesome name), which reports that robots will soon take over the cooking, cleaning and ordering of groceries in households, that rooms will feature their own miniature robot “tidiers”, and painting and decorating will become a thing of the past as “smart walls” will beam ever-changing vistas into the contact lenses of wildly contented and ineffably relaxed homeowners up and down the land.

To which I can only say: “Oh, my, God. It’s like Maggie Philbin, from high era Tomorrow’s World, standing over a prototype microwave oven while announcing, ‘Welcome to the end of cooking as we know it.’ ” It’s delusional nonsense that, at its most cynical, is designed only to shift yet another wave of friendly household consumer goods.

Plus, when I read about robot tidiers in every room and the installation of smart walls throughout the home all I see is one big word, in caps lock, MAINTENANCE. The end of DIY? Nope. It’s the beginning of a DIY nightmare. “Dad. My robot tidier has broken down again, and it’s spilt hydraulic fluid all over the carpet.” “Dad, the smart wall’s on the blink again” Or, “Sweetheart, you need to update the robo-chef’s operating system. He’s putting way too much turmeric in the dhal.”

I hate housework. It puts me in a bad mood. There’s just so much of it. There’s always something to clean, to put away, to put back, to wipe down, to hang out, to dry, to fold, to stir, to cook, and to clean again. In my parents’ generation the women did all the housework and the men came home from work, sat down, read the paper and waited for their supper. And then after supper, guess what? The women did the washing-up too.

On reflection, and as someone who daily does oodles of housework while trying not to shoot himself out of sheer frustration, I’m both ashamed and baffled to have lived through that time. Ashamed that I didn’t do anything about it other than sit back and think, “Oh, I can’t wait to be a man. It’s going to be soooo easy.” And baffled that women everywhere didn’t just simultaneously down tools, grab their husbands by the lapels and scream: “Help me. You lazy bastards. In fact, screw that. I’m out of here. No hair-do treat, occasional outfit, or once-a-year trip to a soggy French campsite — where, incidentally, I do all the chores — is worth this.”

Still, as the years pass and I try, however ineffectually, to understand the bits in my head that make me tick, and how to interact with the mysteries of the world around me, I’ve come to realise that housework isn’t good and it isn’t bad. It just is. Like life itself, it’s how you do it that matters. To imagine that it’s ever going to disappear is to miss the point. Housework is dead. Long live housework.

Dogs should stick to barking

I’m not entirely convinced by a University of Portsmouth study that claimed that dogs were essentially selfish because, when faced with the task of retrieving their owner’s notebook or fetching a fun doggie toy, they chose the toy each time.

The logic is that if the dogs are to validate their position as man’s best friend they should go straight for the invaluable notebook. Yet I can’t help feeling that someone, somewhere (mostly in the University of Portsmouth), is not acknowledging that these are dogs, not personal assistants.

Plus, I would be hugely creeped out if, when I walked into my study, my dog announced, via a series of barks and grimaces, “Right, you’ve got two urgent emails from work, the missus has called, and you’re late for cricket pick-up. I’ve done your flat white, they didn’t have any sparkling mineral water and the pistachios are unsalted but roasted. All good?” I prefer, “Ruff ruff! Where’s my food? Any chance of a walk?”

Keeping you glued to the TV

At last, just what we’ve all been waiting for. The satellite service Freesat (owned by the BBC and ITV) has developed a “real-time” audience-monitoring system that will allow the company to detect the exact moments when viewers begin to switch away from live broadcasts such as Strictly Come Dancing.

This information will give the broadcasters the ability to edit television shows on the spot, and replace anything dull, commonplace and vaguely low-key with a hysterical, attention-grabbing high-point or anything at all to dissuade you from even thinking about channel-hopping.

Which is fine in theory, and I don’t want to get too snooty about it, but shouldn’t all art, even lightweight Saturday evening TV shows, have some boring bits? Because the boring bits are the bits that make the exciting bits seem exciting.

If everything is 100 per cent exciting then it ceases to be exciting. It’s just chaos, noise and Craig Revel Horwood bursting the dreams of a long-forgotten daytime TV presenter.

Stella Turner
Stella Turner

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