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A desktop audit uncovers the answers and a whole lot more

A lot of stuff ends up on your desk over 30 years. Everything from a tousled copy of The Roosevelt Years to an account in the International Herald Tribune of the execution of an American IT contractor in Iraq. Nor does it stop there. There are other books and other cuttings too, hundreds of them - some are bin-filed in a large plastic drum en route to the recycling centre to be cheerfully dumped into landfill, whatever it says on the tin.

Now what is this? A picture of Frank Lloyd Wright outside the AA in Bedford Square. And this? A newspaper cutting about the way that all the new devices for playing compressed digital music have one anachronistic feature: they only have two audio channels, 1950s stereo style.

This cutting carries a picture of what looks like a set of headphones for five ears. It will give you hands-free 'surround sound'when you are on the move.Too trivial? Well here's one about the oil crisis.

Apparently all the oil that is 'easy' to recover will run out in about 15 years, but it won't matter because we'll start mopping up the 'hard' stuff from then on. Trouble is, by 2030 there will be more cars registered in China than in the US, and old computers will be mined for the gold, silver, copper, palladium, platinum and other metals left in their carcasses? While we are on this high-tech note, how about that project for connecting to the Internet by plugging into the mains?

Nothing more on this, I'm afraid, as is the case with a potential cancer cure by nanotechnology - 'a thin silica bubble, the surface of which can be customised using a peptide carrier group to selectively target cancer cells, is injected into the patient, ' explains the release opaquely.

As for other books, well there is After the New Economy by Doug Henwood (New Press 2003), wherefrom we learn that new technology isn't making everybody rich and famous after all.

Instead, 'the distribution of income in the US in the early years of this century is about the most unequal it's ever been'.

So, if not wealth, what? The tale of a typical Tokyo university student takes some beating. She suffers from cellular phone addiction, or 'Keichu', which means that she makes 50 calls a day and is being evicted from her mini-flat because she is behind with her rent. Other students are addicted to emails, sending 300-500 every day until their lines are disconnected and they go into therapy.

Another item catches my eye: 'Home theatre, even better than the real thing'. This recounts the craze for converting your living room into a small cinema and inviting the neighbours in to watch movies. Everybody's doing it, says a Manhattan architect.

He quotes US Consumer Electronics Association figures that show 3.1 million packaged systems were sold in 2003, three times as many as in 2000. Is this a bunker manifestation out of 9/11? If so, nobody is quoted as making the connection, but I am sure it is there.

At a more measured pace today's desktop audit ends with news from New Zealand. Apparently the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy has proved the biggest boost to the country's economy since the Americas Cup five years ago.

Only this time everyone has been much more clued up, starting at the top. Even before The Return of the King started making its way through cinemas all around the world, the New Zealand government had approved a grants programme intended to attract more big-budget movie-makers to the antipodes. Making the 'Rings trilogy injected US$330 million into the New Zealand economy. Maybe the answer to kickstarting urban renewal is not an art gallery but a film.

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