Exercise won’t help you FATTY

fat me 2

Before

September 2nd sees a parliamentary debate on cycling so now is the time to really understand what the true health benefits of exercise-based transport are. If we cyclists get what we want, the nation certainly will be healthier but surprisingly, I expect the impact on obesity will be limited.

The first thing I was amazed to discover is that being fat is itself a symptom, not a disease. This means fat people are not lazy, they are not gluttonous, and they are not at fault. Equally being thin doesn’t give you the right to judge fat people. Or assume that you are better than them. In fact just because you are not expressing the symptom of fatness doesn’t mean you are any healthier than someone who is overweight.

The fact of the matter is that being fat, is like having a label on you all the time that says “lazy”.  It is generally and wrongly accepted that fat people are at fault. They eat more than they burn, so their fatness is simply a result of a lack of self-control or laziness. There is a simple puritan logic to that, and that is why that idea is so pervasive. It also has the rather intoxicating benefit of letting thin people feel superior. But it turns out that this view is misguided and unfounded.  None the less it is so widely held that being fat is depressing. So if you are overweight then you either desperately want to be thin or you have found some way of putting up emotional defences and have resigned yourself to judgement from those around you.

As someone whose weight tended to be between 16-17 stone, I know how painful it was to always have your weight discussed and commented on by “concerned” relatives. Apparently it is fine at every family gathering, to tell the largest member of the family they have a problem. To hold their stomach and say, “you’re getting big”. But oddly not OK to tug the senior members of the family’s skin and say “the collagen in your skin is breaking down, you’re getting old”.

Other peoples’ judgement is the worst part of being overweight. It is fine to say: “you shouldn’t focus on weight” you should focus on health, but nobody does. If as a fat person you do that, you will still have skinny smokers telling you to lose weight as they struggle to climb a couple of stairs.

Exercise reduces your percentage body fat. It will cause you to build muscle and reduce some of the most damaging fats, e.g. those that reside in your liver. It will improve your insulin sensitivity, and it will do more to reduce your risk from heart disease than achieving a “normal” weight. If you do not have about an hour’s exercise built into your day, then you risk mental and physical impairments in old age, but don’t expect exercise to dramatically change your weight on the scale.

I know that people start exercising and they lose weight. In the short term that is quite easy to do. The problem is that in the long term it is untenable.  There is no single study that shows that exercise alone will cause you to lose weight. If you increase your activity level, then you will increase your appetite.

The issue with exercise and calorie restriction is that you are starving yourself. Although you are burning extra calories by flapping your limbs about pointlessly on treadmills you are also putting your cells into “protection mode”.  When you rest, your resting energy expenditure will have crashed. Typically, you will start burning 10% fewer calories at rest once you have lost weight through exercise, there by negating the extra calories you are “burning”.

The thing is we have come to think of exercise as simply being the “cure” to fatness. It isn’t. Exercise is much more important than simply a way of “burning” the “fuel” which is food.  Humans are not internal combustion engines. We eat food, we don’t consume fuel.

We must accept that sugar is an addictive and dangerous drug. It causes insulin resistance. This reduces sensitivity to Ghrelin which means you are feeling hungrier than you should be. So even though you don’t need to eat your brain is telling you, you are starving.  So all you can do is try to manage your environment. Don’t have sweets in your home. Tell people you work with not to offer you sweets and that you will get increasingly annoyed if they do.

“Sugar is alcohol without the buzz”. So if like me you have a problem with the amount you are eating, you really need to avoid sugar above all else. It is real easy for me to hoover up 3 bits of chocolate brownie at a friend’s birthday. Sound advice for an alcoholic is don’t go to the pub. The term chocoholic is seen as funny, because we think of alcohol as really harmful and sweets as innocent. But nothing could be further from the truth. They both have their problems.

Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Switch from sweet to fatty treats. Cheese and deli meat is not moreish, and it won’t make your insulin spike.

Here is where the difference is. Some people are addicted to sugary food, others are not. For some people cutting back on sweets is easy. For others it is as difficult as someone with an alcohol problem only drinking a small amount. Alcohol addictions have the side effect of bad behaviour. Sugar addiction has the problem of increased appetite.

Nobody wants to see improvement to the exercise based transport infrastructure in the UK more than me. But as a former very fit ‘fatty’, I can tell you that exercise alone is not the answer. I am sure that my 2hour round trip cycling to work knocked a couple of pounds off and meant my weight was 17stone rather than 17stone 3 but the real solution to obesity is to control the inputs.

Creating walkable and cyclable communities will reduce depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and strokes. Improving our ability to get about under our own steam will improve fitness, strengthen and our immunity to illness. But the lame won’t walk, the blind won’t see and the obese won’t get all the way down to thin. As a society we collectively struggle with our weight and the answer to that problem lies overwhelmingly in reducing the harmful effects of sugar.

The reason the evidence that cycling reduces obesity is limited is because it doesn’t.  We need to fight for improvement to UK cycling because there are many known benefits but we need to be careful about this obesity claim because it is the one that will let us down.

 

thin me

 

After (much less exercise than before)

What’s Wrong with Top Gear?

Whats worng with top gear

 

Top Gear is one of the world’s most successful TV franchises. So any critique of this brand has to doff its cap to that fantastic achievement. But after the final episode in the series I began to wander what we are watching?

I don’t have any sympathy for the idea that it should be a straight consumer advice show. Cars don’t really do it for me. As far as I can tell there are only two types of people who buy Ferraris: People who have inherited their wealth, and old men who have spent their lives amassing a fortune who have bought one to vanquish memories of being bullied at school (e.g. the wonderful Dave Fishwick from Channel 4’s Bank of Dave.)

I like the current Top Gear format. Given how I feel about the most exciting and sexy cars, I think having to watch a show that compared the minutiae of affordable cars would be enough to want to make me stick my head in the oven.

I like the current format even more now my interest in the show has waned to the point where I never bother to watch it live. Top Gear has become something I ignore while I have coffee and look through e-mails in the morning. I don’t know what proportion of their audience is ambivalent like me.  I remember being in a rugby mini bus about three years ago and saying to my team mates that I thought the format was exhausted and that it would soon be over. I was thoroughly rebuffed. It turned out at that point there were still plenty of dyed in the wool Top Gear fans.

Equally, I know there are people who hate them and rejected the brand a long time ago, most because they disagree with Jeremy Clarkson’s politics. So if you watch it, you either agree with his right wing views or you can tolerate them. Watching on iPlayer, I tend to fast forward all the studio scenes and A Star in a Reasonably Priced Car, and just watch the contrived races. That way the only thing left that grates on me is Hammond having to laugh awkwardly at his boss’ jokes. Although I am always fascinated by the fact that James May doesn’t really laugh at Clarkson’s contribution. I assume this is because he can’t bring himself to?

The point where I really lost interest was a few years ago when they were driving trucks into walls made from various materials and Clarkson got hurt. It really didn’t sit well with me at all. It made me feel bad because I have been laughing at these escapades. I saw an old man hurt himself and felt partly responsible.

So what is the issue? When young men hurt themselves it is funny. It’s funny because you assume they are not doing any long term damage to themselves. You may claim to not have any interest in slapstick, but the success of everything from Jackass to Laurel and Hardy, shows that it is enjoyed by many people. Slapstick is also a very televisual form of humour. Dialogue comedy can be performed on the radio, but slapstick really needs the pictures.

For the slapstick to be funny, you have to feel it is real. For it to be real the men have to willingly put themselves in harm’s way and get hurt. You can then laugh at them for their stupidity, but admire their physical robustness. So young men doing slapstick, are demonstrating how tough they are. Old men who play this game have two choices. Either they permanently damage themselves, or they fake it.

If they damage themselves permanently then what are we watching? Basically an old clown, in floppy shoes, and white face make-up being beaten up for public enjoyment.

If they are not damaging themselves, and they plan to do the show indefinitely then what are we viewing? Well, basically a format we have seen before and it’s called “Last of the Summer Wine”.

Now I don’t have any problem with Top Gear/Last of the Summer Wine but please don’t tell me that it is cool, or aspirational or even relevant. It is just a bit of bland harmless fun, with enough casual racism and misogyny to keep people talking about it.

I am about to turn 30, I am married and I have my own home, so I am not a kid. Although “stars” my age that get on the show are spoken down to, in order to make old men Clarkson’s age feel good. To be honest that is fine. It goes out at 8pm on a Sunday and in years gone by, my two brothers, my father and I would sit and watch it together. I would even go back to my family home on a Sunday to watch it with them because it was a fantastic bonding experience.

We all aspired to be like these wealthy, macho mates, who did what they wanted. But my life has moved on and they aren’t really talking to me anymore. I suspect they may still be talking to my father, but what they are saying seems alien and irrelevant to me. As my Dad’s cohort, the baby boomers is the biggest one, they are entitled to the 8pm Sunday slot. But let’s face it: the UK’s population is getting older and our most popular TV show is starting to reflect that.

The last show of this series finished with a procession of British made motor vehicles on The Mall. The trio told us that “people say we don’t make anything anymore”. Let me stop you right there. I grew up in the 80′s and the 90’s. Heavy industry and manufacturing was gone already. I never expected to work in manufacturing and my only friend who does, makes components for Volvo engines which are exported. He may as well be in a service sector job. When I go to the pub with my mates, we don’t lament the loss of British industry, because we never saw it.

I don’t care if we produce cars for export; I want to know how I am going to move from my two bedroom flat to a family home without having to relocate area for the fourth time. I want to know how I do that and start a family before my wife and I are so old that having a kid with Down’s Syndrome becomes a legitimate concern. I can only imagine, what an 18 year old weighing up their options thinks when they are asked to be proud that somewhere in the UK we still make sit on lawn mowers?

Nobody has said to me “We don’t make anything here anymore”. Only people who don’t need to work have the luxury of thinking that operating a plant machine is better than operating a switch board. I would like to see the BBC do a buddy show that reflects my life. Maybe the format could be a couple and their best male friend. That might better reflect the fact the people my age rarely hang out in single sex groups. This format wouldn’t be as popular as Top Gear, because it will take time to pull the indoctrinated away.

Top Gear now seems to be a Zombie show. It hasn’t done anything new for at least 5 years. It has recycled ideas like the aquatic cars a few times and nobody seems to mind. Could it be that the BBC needs to let the Top Gear machine roll on regardless, because it is a cash cow, but shouldn’t we also be asking the BBC: What’s next?

How Much Wine Should I Drink?

IMG_9372

 

The Truth about Wine:

I like wine a lot. It is by far the best drink to accompany food. There is no other drink that commands so much respect. Unfortunately it is also fair to say that there is no other drink that is surrounded with so much bullshit. I am no “wine expert” but I do know how to review the scientific literature. So at great personal risk to my business I thought I would do a few quick and hopefully helpful blogs about what is true, and what are the common fallacies about wine, why they have come about and perhaps a little on how you can handle the situation when one of these fallacies’ raises their head and keeps coming back to life like a hideous zombie.

Part 1: Health & Wine

A staple of any conversation about wine is this statement: “A glass of wine a day is good for your health.”

Below is a Ven diagram of why that is such a good “fact”.

The best statements, the ones I spent my working life looking for in TV are simple and have these three magic qualities that rarely overlap:

wine rings. 1. They are exciting: they tell you something that you like. They tell you something that will increase your future enjoyment.

2. They are true, they are confirmed by some authority and you can rely on these statements.

And the hardest to find:

3. They are counter intuitive (=surprising), they confound your expectations.

If I had just broken the news that “A glass of wine a day is good for you” then boom. This blog would go viral. Anyone  with a vested interest would be climbing to the top of church spires and screaming it at the top of their lungs whilst they  re-tweet like mad from their smart phones.

Sadly for all of us this is not true (sad face). Or at least the evidence to support it is woefully inadequate. So how has the  world’s most repeated health fallacy come about?

The healthiest people in the world are the guys that drink one small glass of wine a day. These are not normal people.  Most people are by their nature hedonistic. We like to do things that make us feel good. We are built to seek out experiences that make us feel good. We wish to find the things that make our senses tingle. When we find things that feel good we keep doing them.

A person who metronomically drinks one small glass of wine a day for years on end is an aberration. They do exist, but they only exist because there are literally billions of humans on the planet. They are not figures which we mortals should look to emulate.

Now who are the guys that don’t drink any alcohol? T-totals, dry alcoholics and people confined to hospitals. Why might the five year survival rate be higher for the group that have some innate, incredible ability to drink one small glass of wine a day despite all the social pressures heaped on them, than the “non-drinkers” which are two thirds comprised of the hospitalised and former heavy drinkers? Well when I think back about my friends, the guys who could say, “no thanks, I am just having one drink” and meant it, didn’t tend to be the same guys lighting Sambuca shots, and then sticking them to themselves with the vacuums caused by extinguishing the flames on their bare chests.

Someone who only has one small glass of wine is probably very adept at avoiding all kinds of long term harms, in every aspect of their life. If you can find a large study that splits out all the different kinds of non-drinkers, then I would genuinely be interested to read that work. If I see it, I will be delighted. I will be fascinated and I will gladly correct this blog. But for now let us accept that this statement is not true. It seems true only because it is a mantra that has been repeated over and over again.

But hang on; I am sure I have been told that wine is good for your heart? It thins the blood. Well yes it does, and again at moderate levels (less than two glasses a day) you should have a lower risk of coronary heart disease. But alcohol will bump up several other risk factors. So the correct amount to drink to maximise your health benefits is one or two teaspoons a day. It is literally a medical does of wine. That is hilarious and no fun at all.

So let’s just do ourselves a favour. Forget all food health statements. Unless they are unequivocal and obvious, they are probably laughable. If you insist on looking at the health benefits of food stuffs then please use this site as a touch stone: http://bit.ly/dmmhdR.

For the rest of us let’s just accept that wine tastes amazing. It relaxes you, it makes you more comfortable in the present, it reduces your stress levels and your inhibitions. It makes it easier to speak to those around you. It frees you up and makes you a more animated and interesting person to be with. In the short term, even at reasonable doses wine, tends to make you a better person, or at least a more open and fun one. You work hard and for the most part you aren’t reckless with your health so you are entitled to a drink. There are enough good reasons to have a glass of wine without resorting to, at best, shaky health claims.

 

What Bike to Buy?

 

 

what bike to buy

 

 

I get asked for advice from people who want to start cycling, about which bike to buy. This is the best advice I can give. It is not about bike frames, but “Mind frames”. There is no right or wrong bike to buy. But there is definitely a right and wrong frame of mind to be in when you buy anything for the first time.

If you like bikes then you want to know how best to help your friends select the best machine. If you are thinking of getting a bike, you might be looking at this world of different pedal powered possibilities and thinking “it is a minefield, which one do I go for?” The truth is there is an industry set up to look at every kind of bike in insane detail. If you are buying your first bike for a long time, none of that is any use to you.

Here is my advice on what to do: Buy a road bike. Not a hybrid, a proper road bike.

They cut through traffic like a hot knife through butter. As a means of beating the rush hour they are fantastic. You can take it out in the evening and get exercise and there is nothing more fun than pelting along country roads on one and visiting vinyards along the way.

Don’t agonise about which one to get. They are all good. If you don’t own one go out and buy one. You won’t look back, just spend what you can and make sure you get it sized properly.

The biggest mistake we all make in this situation is to focus on our individuality. Choice is stressful. It is burdensome, hence the “minefield”. We see all these different products and we think it is our job to spend our money wisely. We assume that if we don’t study the options properly we will make an uninformed choice. We will spend money on something and then when we become better informed we will live to regret that decision.

You might now be questioning my advice about buying a road bike. Many people say: “Their tires are too thin. They can’t have any grip. They don’t look strong enough” these people are wrong. Nobody who says that owns a road bike. This is the uninformed opinion of people who either don’t ride road bikes or don’t ride bikes at all. They are not the best people to listen to.

Occasional trips to the countryside on dirt tracks are not a valid reason. This is a classic rooky mistake. Buy the bike that works best for the primary purpose. Don’t be cheap. Don’t get suckered into wasting money on a machine that doesn’t do what you want it to do 98% of the time because 2 % of the time you want to do something else. Be a grown up. Accept that when the time comes you may want a second bike, or you may have to borrow a bike.

There are only two reasons why you might choose to buy something other than a road bike. Either you have some special physical restriction or need that means a road bike is not the best machine for you, or you intend to ride your new bike in an unusual way that will damage a road bike.

A road bike provides you with the lightest possible configuration of materials and the least rolling resistance, and a stiff frame so your effort is efficiently converted into forward propulsion. Therefore anything else you buy will be heavier and more effort to ride. Because road bikes are the most efficient, they will be a viable means of transport for more of your journeys than any other kind of bike. Your goal when buying a bike should be to become a habitual bike user. You don’t want to put it away one day and then never get it out again. Therefore there has to be a very good reason for sacrificing the utility of a road bike.

It could be that you are too old to get in the position a road bike puts you in. The seat makes you uncomfortable, there is too much weight going through your arms, or your frail and need electric assist.

Alternatively you are going to ride your bike in a way that is beyond the specification of most road bikes: on a downhill dirt track, in a BMX park or carrying heavy loads.

In order to establish if you fall into either of these categories, you need to speak to someone just like you. Find someone who is using their bike in the way you intend to use the bike you wish to purchase.  If for instance you want something to commute on, pick someone who is your age, at about your income level, about your build, your fitness level, has your distance commute and ask them why they chose the bike they went for. If they ruled out road bike, just check it wasn’t because of “reckless caution”. If they tell you about pot holes and wanting something strong, then make sure that isn’t the only bike they have ever owned. Be especially careful about listening to people who have been cycling for less than 2 years.

Unless someone has ridden into work through at least two winters, their bike could still very well see out the majority of its days propping up a shed wall. Check that when they bought that bike they weren’t as naive as you are now. You want to speak to someone like you but who has been cycling for at least 2 years and owned more than one bike.

Now you have found the right person it is simple: Ask this person these three questions:

1)      “Do you like your bike?” If they respond “yes” move onto Q2

2)      “What is your bike?” (retain answer in memory)

3)       “How much does it currently cost in the shops?”

Now ask yourself this question:

4)      “Is that bike within my budget?”

 

If yes- BUY THAT BIKE. Well done you have found the correct machine. Move on with your life.

We worry about future regrets too much. We do regret bad decisions. But evolution has built us to over estimate how much we will regret bad decisions to keep us safe. The result is all too often we fall into the trap of reckless caution.

The second thing we do is fail to listen. We see all this product variety and we think there is an option for every personality. We wrongly assume that our guess of “how we will feel” in the future is more accurate than speaking to someone and asking them how they feel in the present. We ask our friends what they like about their bike, and what they don’t. We then attempt to research several options and extrapolate how we will feel based on what makes us different from them. This is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Yet it is what we so often do.

We assume that our friends will judge us and think less of us if we are sheep and just copy them. What you will be judged for and will irritate your friends is buying a rubbish bike against their good advice. What will flatter your friends is buying exactly the same bike as them and saying “I heard good things about the “xxxx” So that is the one I went for”.

But what if your friend’s tried and tested bike is beyond your means?

Here is what to do: Go to a shop. Yes a real bricks and mortar shop. In the shop will be a person. They are actually paid to be in a room full of bikes for several days a week. They all know about bikes. Tell them what bike your friends ride and that you cannot afford that particular model. Ask them to sell you something which is not as expensive as that bike, but almost as good.

They will then, tell you lots of things about the bike they have selected for you. If what they are saying sounds plausible, ask one further question: “If I buy this bike, (assuming parity in fitness and skill) will I be able to keep up with my friends on the more expensive model?” if they answer “yes” with confidence BUY THAT BIKE.

Well done you have found the correct machine. Move on with your life.

You feel it can’t be that easy, I can’t just spend a big lump of money like that without really evaluating all the options, trust me that is totally wrong. The best way to get through a minefield is to walk in someone else’s footprints. If this is your first bike for a few years then it will take you a long time to work out what you want from a bike in the level of detail most comparison sights and magazines go into. As long as the useful life of the bike.

If you do it this way, you will make a decision quicker, you won’t do anything silly and you will get loads of enjoyment out of your new bike.

I hope you found this to be useful consumer advice. If you did please Like us on facebook and share the post via the various social media tabs bellow.

Or feel free to comment on our Face book page: https://www.facebook.com/WineRides

(If you have further questions we would be happy to answer them for you.)

Possessions: Did John Lennon get it right?

Peacocking

 

 

I love the modern world. There has never been a better and more stimulating time to be alive. It really is important to keep in mind how much richer our world is even compared to the one we had in the 1980’s when I grew up.

No discussion of the future would be complete without reference to Back To the Future II: http://bit.ly/TGklVQ Watch, enjoy and then come back to me. At the time that film came out the fax machine had quickly become ubiquitous. So it was logical to assume that people would have loads of them in their homes. Obviously they hadn’t foreseen the most important current communication technology: e-mail. That clip is hilarious because in the light of e-mail, it is now ridiculous to assume that we would want all that paper filling up our house every time someone sent us a message.

It is therefore worth speculating on what the future will look like because in years to come, you can look back and laugh at your ludicrous naivety. In order to guess what might happen as we go forward, it is important to pick the technologies that seem likely to be the runners and riders.

My list would be: autonomous flying robots, wearable computers e.g. Google glass, bacterial data storage, and therefore e-books and online video and cheap, 1 dollar webservers and super cheap computing like the raspberry pie and arduino boards, new currencies like Bitcoin, to some extent 3D printing and the bacterial brick, which I suspect will be the start of something much more important than 3D printing. Finally a Wine Rides List wouldn’t be complete without the best form of transport – the bicycle.

A few years ago I had the enormous privilege of making a film for Discovery Channel about UPS. It was life changing because I went to a company called Zappos. They sell shoes on line. If you order before 9pm, anywhere on the mainland of the USA they can have your shoes to you by 08:30AM the next day. They can do this because their facility is at the end of UPS’s airport runway, so they are no more than 4hrs away from anyone in continental USA. In order to make that happen, in their factory they have a mind blowing machine. I can only describe it as the world’s largest, most complex rubiks cube, storing millions of shoe boxes. A computer knows the location of every pair of shoes in the machine. As the orders come in on line, the computer automatically commands this monster to move the squares of the rubiks cube in order to navigate a single pair of shoes to the outside of the ground floor level where a human picker stands.

That machine is the physical manifestation of the internet. Amazon and eBay are what we think of when we say “e-commerce”. But it is the delivery companies like UPS and FedEx that make it happen (and Yodel and TNT that don’t make it happen). Without the huge advancement in order fulfilment we had in the 1990’s, our current world would not exist.

As amazing as things are now, we need to look at the forces at play which will mould this world into our future. Global population is set to stabilise at 9 billion and we are now an urban planet with more than 50% of the world’s population living in cities. In the years to come more people will live in the world’s mega cities. So space is at a premium. When I moved to London as a student I lived a fairly Spartan life in halls in Kensington. I had too many clothes, a desktop computer, two plates (so I could have company for dinner) and my books, an MP3 player and a tooth brush. My possessions and I barely fitted in that dorm.

As I have got older I have acquired more stuff and as a result have become more buoyant and simply floated out from the centre of London to my current position in zone three. In a few years I hope to have a family and it seems likely that this further expansion will result in us adopting an even more distant orbit from the capital.

The reason I don’t live in central London is that there is a cost involved.  London is very much like Bass Rock, one of the world’s largest bird colonies. Millions of gannets breed on that island and they all want the best spot in the centre. These fat, noisy sea birds fly to the centre, and crash in the middle of the colony. The strongest can stay in the centre and the weak and less dominant ones get pushed further and further out.  In that way, a foreign billionaire who buys up central London property is not unlike a fat gannet that comes crashing down on the heads of the other birds. So if you want to live in central London, then you better live light, or find a way to get your bank account topped up by a nation’s mineral wealth.

This has of course already started happening. My own life is different from my parents in that I don’t own a car. For past generations the family car would have been their largest depreciating asset. Rather than private ownership, we use Zipcar, and if we are going away, Enterprise car rental. As a result I cannot just jump in my car and go to the big supermarket. I have to book a car buy the hour, or the day with my phone. The upside is that I am not haemorrhaging money over an expensive metal box and I don’t ever have to worry about any costly repairs. I also keep the cost for the rental down by letting my Zipcar membership lapse every year. I only ever renew it when I need a car for an hour. As a result my £60 membership of the car club actually lasts me more than a year. Because of where we live, in a walkable community, I only use a car a handful of times a year. Cars for me are now a utility like gas, rather than a possession. They are a service, not a product.

What made Zipcar possible was new information technologies. The transaction cost was drastically reduced by online payment and booking. This meant that for the first time in history, it was possible to book a car for an hour, rather than a whole day and the business was still economically viable.

Which means you have to ask, if the transaction cost continues to reduce what other possessions will start to become worthy of the Zipcar model? We now “share” cars. In doing so, it is possible to save money on a car and put that money into your housing. As a result, if you choose this strategy you can devote more of your income to your housing and live nearer the centre of the city. Is it possible that in the future we won’t only share cars we will also share clothes?

When I was filming with UPS, I became obsessed with the idea that a centralised system and scale could be used in other aspects of life. The one that occurred to me was clothes washing. If the council picked up your dirty laundry and took it to a new municipal washing facility, dried, ironed it and brought it back to you, that would not only be one more arduous task you don’t have to do, but it would also free up the space of a washing machine and drying from your flat. A friend of mine pointed out that the problem with that idea is: that who wants to send a nice expensive shirt to the municipal laundry? Building trust in such a system would be virtually impossible.

But what if the transaction cost got so low that clothes became items worthy of sharing under the Zipcar model? I am a member of the “Blue Harbour” community. Like thousands of other men in Britain, I have my annual excursion to Marks & Spencer’s to buy a series of bland, drab clothes which do me just fine. I’m sure there is another gaggle of people who frequent Top Shop, Next, or even wear only Armani.

Could it be possible that rather than owning all your own clothes, we rent them in a Love film model? On Sunday evening, just before you settle in to watch a film you are streaming, a box of clothes for you for the week is delivered to your house freshly laundered. It could be linked to your Google calendar, and there would automatically be those clothes you need for that meeting. There would be Amazon style recommendations: “I see you enjoyed wearing a cravat sir. You may also enjoy wearing a panama hat.”

It is unlikely, that a subscription to “Love Clothes” will get you to donate your threads and sell your wardrobe on eBay to make room for that pinball machine you’ve always wanted. Before you jettison the washing machine, the dryer and all your clothes storage, you are going to need something even better than a “Zipcar for clothes”. You would need to be able to pick your clothes that morning, and have them delivered to your house almost instantly. For the sheer inconvenience of not being able to pull them out of your cupboard and put them on, you would need to be rewarded with infinitely more choice than even our now vast personal clothing stockpiles will allow.

This will be possible. You can’t read about the Google driverless car without realising that anybody who drives a delivery vehicle or a taxi has a job with a sell by date. As soon as goods can be moved autonomously by robots, the transaction cost of these schemes will plummet. I live in a top floor flat, and I don’t even see why that should be an issue. The driverless vehicle will carry clothes around the neighbourhood and autonomous flying quodrocopters like this: http://bit.ly/13OeFko will take individual items from the street to your hand.

You will wear the clothes, and when you are done a quodrocopter will know you are home from your phone’s GPS signal and appear with a bag to come and get them. If the municipal laundry wrecks the clothes, you won’t give a hoot, you won’t even know. You never owned the clothes in the first place, they were just part of the price plan you paid for.

If that seems mad then think about some other things that seem mad today: For me to rent a car to get to my brother’s wedding – £30. For me to rent the black tie and top hat for the wedding – £110. A tonne of metal with thousands of highly engineered parts was a third of the price of a few pounds of cotton. If clothes rental does happen, then I am sure it will start with high value items first. And gradually take over. The people who adopt rental clothes first will be open-minded and affluent. I don’t think it can be long before we see a Zappos for black tie wedding clothes. They will send you out three sets and you will wear the stuff that fits. It will all get shipped back at the end, and the price will be low because unlike Moss Bros, they won’t need any high-street shops.

I highly doubt possessions will be driven to extinction. Young children tend to fight most over their possessions. Adults use them as a way of signalling their status and I am sure some people who consider a world where we individually own very little are currently suffering from some kind of existential crises. “What am I here for if it isn’t to accumulate all this stuff and then show it to people?”

In a society with less stuff, we may have to move from conspicuous consumption to prove our status, to conspicuous leisure. I am just young enough to be described as a “digital native”. Amongst my peers, there is already an etiquette about posting holiday images on Facebook.  We now have the ability and the desire to flaunt our leisure time and our achievements on the web.

Richard Dawkins suggests that the oversized human brain is like a peacock’s tail, its unnecessary size is there for us to attract mates and gain status like a set of deer antlers.

In recent times the clear signal was “buying big”: Big cars, big houses and if not big, coat it in a heavy metal and make it shiny so it can be seen. Is it possible that social media is helping us get back to more subtle forms of self-aggrandising? I could be in my own digital bubble, but if someone posted a picture of a new widescreen TV, I would find that crass.  If they posted a video of themselves doing a violin solo, or a head spin, I would rightly applaud their skill and effort. For you to get credit for your sports car there has to be line of sight. To get credit for a perfect rendition of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees you just need a smart phone.

My hope is that in the future we will see a lot more Breakdance-offs and far fewer Range Rovers. As a species we tend to over value our possessions. We get attached to stuff and it breaks. So often we may be better off not owning as much in the first place. I said this future world could be utterly unrecognisable from the present. It is hard to imagine not owning things and placing our personal worth in videos of us head spinning on You Tube. Our things are so real and our achievements so ephemeral. But what we have to realise is that since the 1980’s humans have built the world’s most indestructible machine: the internet. It is so widespread and so adaptive that it will almost certainly never break. For the first time in human history an action, once remembered, can’t be forgotten.

That is the biggest and most profound change in humanities fortunes there has ever been and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

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UPDATE:

 

 

 Amazon drone

 

Gosh it only took 5 months to happen!