Snow White's evil stepmum had a mirror fetish. She gazed upon that defective and fickle pain of a pane day in and day out, and the mirror lied like a dog, telling her she was the fairest out of reflective self-preservation.
The same can't be said of a surreal new mirror being tested by the Chicago-based technology consulting and development firm Accenture.
Accenture's "persuasive mirror" is actually an LCD panel that serves up freak composites of a Future You based on your present living habits. Mini-cameras installed throughout your house transmit footage to a mainframe computer, and your behaviour patterns are analysed to determine what kind of person, physically anyway, you're shaping up to be.
Says New Scientist magazine, "If the computer feels you are eating too much, it will calculate how many pounds to add to the image of the person standing in front of the mirror."
The mirror will also show the effects of drinking (ravaged skin!) and a generally unhealthy lifestyle (bags under your eyes!). It's a weird tech manifestation of a nagging mother telling you to be healthy or else, but using visual rather than verbal substantiations of said eventualities. The mirror is indicative of a recent tech trend - nagging and nannying.
A few weeks ago the New York Times ran an op-ed on drunk dialing, the alarming and apparently widespread practice of calling your ex or boss when you're soused beyond self-control. Australia's Virgin Mobile offers a new cellphone service to combat this worrisome problem. For a small monthly fee, you enter a three-digit code that will block any number you select. You won't be able to dial that number until 6 am the next morning, by which time you should be sober or asleep.
And speaking of sleep, Japanese researchers at the Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute have been developing a system of road troughs that play music through moving cars, thus keeping drivers awake at the wheel. The troughs create different notes based on their size and their distance from one another, and the sounds reverberate through the car to create melodies.
Researchers plan to create place-specific tunes that not only wake people up, but cue them that they're headed in the right direction. What ever happened to alert driving and a little mindfulness?
In many ways these slight innovations just let us do what we've always wanted to do - be lazy. There's no need to censor yourself when your cellphone's got your back. And if you can't manage to remember to exercise or stay away from doughnuts, you can spend big money on an all-seeing machine that will scare you out of your laziness.
Technology has made life easier, but now smart gadgetry is encouraging basic weakness of character. It's one thing to use computers to help organize your life, but entirely another to be such a fool that you can't trust yourself not to call your ex-wife after you've had six pints.
At the amusing end of the tech-nag spectrum is the remote finder, a product that helps resolve a common modern dilemma: No matter how clean your house, and how many times you tell yourself to leave it in the same spot, the remote control is one inanimate object that won't stay put. And as fallible, nuanced people, we can all accept that a tag affixed to our remote control and a whistle we can blow to summon it is a genius way to rectify this small example of human folly.
Besides, if you're spending all your time running laps around High Park to avoid gazing upon your withered countenance in a fate-predicting mirror, you can be forgiven for leaving the living room a little messy.