Can technology soothe our nerves?

Jonathan Beckman in 1843 Magazine:

This year’s broiling summer made us Brits climate-change enthusiasts and environmental doom-mongers in quick succession. First came delight at the disappearance of the traditional rhythms of the English summer. Barbecues no longer sputtered out with the advent of a tensely awaited shower. Sogginess, the traditional texture of the British family trying to enjoy itself outdoors, dried out. Tedium followed, as the parks, which at the start of the season had seemed so welcoming, began to resemble a desolate dustbowl from “The Grapes of Wrath”. And then came despair. It wasn’t the days that were so bad. Most offices have serviceable air-conditioning. But the nights were stagnant, breezeless hellscapes as British homes, whose cavity walls had been obediently filled with mineral fibre and formaldehyde foam to retain every last whisper of heat during the winter, turned into bakeries. Sleep evaporated along with everything else and the simplest tasks became cryptic. I stood in front of my front door flummoxed when faced with two locks that need opening with different keys. Anxiety levels rose and tempers frayed.

In short, it was the perfect time to try out kit designed to reduce stress. Pip is a stress-management device that responds to the electric conductivity of the skin. Egg-shaped, with two gold-plated sensors, it looks like the kind of magic totem that would see a posse of hobbits turn up on your doorstep with a thieving glint in their eyes. Part of Pip’s usefulness is measuring stress as you pinch the device for a couple of minutes between the thumb and forefinger. In a brief span of time, I managed to experience 40 “relaxing events” and 24 “stress events”, which makes my life sound far more enjoyable and eventful than it actually is. There were also 21 “steady events”. I’m not really sure what these can have been beyond a flurry of micro-naps so brief they entirely passed me by.

More here.