I have been feeling a bit down lately, but then, I fancy, has most of humanity. I have wondered what ails me and found the answer in what is for me an unlikely place. It was explained to me by a writer in the Essential California newsletter. According to him, many people in his country and elsewhere are suffering from “Innovation Fatigue.” I fancy he has a point.

Almost every day some new innovation is upon us. People complain about human rights values that are changing, how we may wake up tomorrow morning to be faced with the fact that special rights need to be granted to some new category of human being. It would not be surprising if we are told that people as different as vegetarians, boiler makers, rap artists and bird watchers need to be granted special rights. This may seem unlikely but in view of all that has changed in the field of human rights in the last twenty years it is not impossible.

And if human rights have changed, what about innovation? Twenty years ago I interviewed an executive of what was, at the time, the world’s largest cell phone company. I asked him to describe to me the future of the cell phone as he saw it. He gave me a detailed outline of the subject – and got just about everything wrong. He did not anticipate the apps that now dominate the industry, he did not know about the cameras that all phones now contain or even the torches that all phones have. He guessed at some other innovations that have not since come to pass, like your bank account residing in your cell phone in such a way that any retail outlet you enter may see if doing business with you is worth their while.

At this point a little matter called privacy enters the picture. And it seems possible that practical considerations may get in the way of some innovations. The retailer whose premises you enter may prefer not to know about your over-drawn account. Maybe you can manage the transaction despite it. The retailer would probably prefer to take the chance than to lose the sale outright.

Motor car innovations may have resulted on your car going further on a tank of fuel than it did in the past. But if you are an adventurous soul, travelling a lonely route, it may also result in nobody within five hundred kilometres being able to assist you with the fault that had brought you to a standstill.

When buying some new item of any kind, the salesperson may ask you an embarrassing question you simply cannot answer. “You want an electric kettle?” you could be asked, “With or without the digital fog control?” Or a tricycle for your four-year-old? “Do you want it with the super-aligned, self-inflating wheels?” Never mind the possibility of a bank account with all the new additions. But you get a fifty-page booklet with your account and it explains everything to you – if you understand the bank’s language. Innovation fatigue? If you haven’t got it yet, maybe you just haven’t been paying attention.

Innovation Fatigue