Gulliver's Travels (1726), Part III, chapter 2:
I observed, here and there, many in the habit of servants, with a
blown bladder, fastened like a flail to the end of a stick, which
they carried in their hands. In each bladder was a small quantity
of dried peas, or little pebbles, as I was afterwards informed.
With these bladders, they now and then flapped the mouths and ears
of those who stood near them, of which practice I could not then
conceive the meaning. It seems the minds of these people are so
taken up with intense speculations, that they neither can speak, nor
attend to the discourses of others, without being roused by some
external action upon the organs of speech and hearing… .
This flapper is likewise employed diligently to attend his master in
his walks, and upon occasion to give him a soft flap on his eyes;
because he is always so wrapped up in cogitation, that he is in
manifest danger of falling down every precipice, and bouncing his
head against every post; and in the streets, of justling others, or
being justled himself into the kennel.
When I first told Katara about this, several years ago, instead of
“the minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations”
I said they were obsessed with their phones.
Now the phones themselves have become the flappers:
Y. Tung and K. G. Shin,
"Use of Phone Sensors to Enhance Distracted Pedestrians’ Safety,"
in IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, vol. 17, no. 6,
pp. 1469–1482, 1 June 2018, doi: 10.1109/TMC.2017.2764909.
Our minds are not even taken up with intense speculations, but with
Instagram. Dean Swift would no doubt be disgusted.
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