The gift-giving season is almost here again. And who could not be overjoyed with the prospect of Amazon deliveries to organise, loved ones to interrogate for advice on what to buy, and panicked trips to the local petrol station on December 24 to make when you forgot to do the previous two things, on the horizon?
But this year we have a problem: there is nothing to buy anyone anymore.
Technology has ruined Christmas.
It's true that if you walk into your average department store you might be under the impression that there are still physical goods available to exchange for money. You might think that all of those bath robes, perfumes and artisanal pencil sharpeners are there for you to lovingly peruse, select, wrap and deliver. You might even convince yourself that the people in your life will be glad to receive that gold-plated, handmade, ironic-moustache-adorned silicone Catherine Kitson backscratcher that you picked out at the local hipster market.
You would of course be wrong. Why? Because the ease and ubiquity of internet shopping means that anything you choose to buy for your friends and family which they truly, desperately covet, they will have already seen, bought, broken and replaced.
The digital shopping algorithms that power our online lives will have identified that item months ago. They will have followed your friends around the internet like a lost, homeless dog, populating their personalised Facebook advert spaces and email spam filters relentlessly until they gave in, weeping and bawling, and bought the damn thing.
And if the item you picked out wasn't already sold to your friends through sheer force-of-numbers auto advertisements? Then they didn't want it anyway. Internet advertising is such that if you're not being sold it, you don't mathematically want it.
And that's only the people you like.
If you're buying something for someone you don't like the problem is even worse. Time was you could walk into any high street media emporium and buy any random CD, DVD book or, at a push, video game, and have done with it. Now all of those items are sold either digitally, or through subscription services. No one buys DVDs any more. As for CDs it's frequently now cheaper to buy a physical CD with automatic, free MP3 downloads attached, than to just buy the downloads themselves. (CDs are a net negative drain on society at this point. If we stopped making, shipping and selling them, gross domestic product would actually rise.)
So what do you do? Without the default CD/DVD purchase for your B-level and down acquaintances, do you just buy an iTunes gift card for everyone you know, and then wait until Christmas to exchange cards of the same value with each of them in turn until you're left with the exact amount with which you started? Is this what online shopping, digital entertainment has left us with?
Our tech has done this to us.
Fortunately, there is an obvious answer: technology!
If your loved ones only listen to music through Spotify and their headphones, buy them a new pair of sound-isolating, society-crumbling RHA T10i in-ear headphones.
If they only watch movies via Amazon Prime, get them an Amazon Fire TV to watch them on the big screen.
Do they play video games? Get them a new game pad, a gaming mouse or a Minecraft Crafting guide.
Tech has been our destruction when it comes to Christmas gift giving, but it can be our salvation too. That's how we see our task this Christmas: identifying and reviewing the very best in the world of tech so you can buy the automaton digital media consuming drones you call your loved ones something they'll actually use as the singularity approaches until we are subsumed into the Borg.
Yes, there will be those who claim that further enabling our descent into digital Xmas hell will serve only to divorce us further from reality, to melt the social and familial bonds that even now just barely manage to bind us, and that ultimately gift giving is a pretty meaningless element in a festive season which is really about making friends, sharing time and reconnecting with our fellow man.
Buy your mum a smartphone. Buy your sister, your cousin and your nan a tablet. Get literally everyone in your office a smartwatch. Let's go down in digital flames together. Let's tech the halls and rediscover the meaning of this Holiday Season: charging cables, account passwords, software updates and blinking screens in the pews at midnight mass.