Monday, May 24, 2010

The Inconvenience of Convenience

Technology is a great thing isn't it? Our culture, and especially our generation, is just enamored with it. And no matter what facet of life you're dealing with, chances are there has been some sort of technological development in the past 20 years that revolutionized it. We have so many nicnaks and doodads designed to make every little step of our days that much more convenient. But I wonder, at what point do these added conveniences become counter-productive?

For instance, a few weeks ago I got a text from my sister, saying "Just read in People magazine that Feces Finding has a single out......thought you may be interested since you set up her stage." She was referring to a singer named Fefe Dobson who did a show at the day camp we both worked at back in the day (and yes, I did work on her stage). But did you catch that little error up there? I'm pretty sure if the actual name of the group were Feces Finding, they'd be targeting a whole different segment of the market. Alas, what happened was that her phone has an autocorrect texting feature that will change words it doesn't recognize (which is bound to happen with a lot of names) into words it does recognize. So "Fefe" became "Feces," a chuckle-worthy text blunder caused by a feature designed to make things more convenient.

These things are all over the place. Most colleges these days have an online file sharing system where professors can post assignments, grades, etc. and students can submit papers and homework electronically via a dropbox feature. This is all great, but is it really worth saving the trip to physically hand stuff in? And you don't even want to know what happens if the internet goes down and you can't get your assignments or submit your work before the built-in deadline. It's a shitstorm in a snow globe.

This is the world in which we trudge about our lives. You can't type a word on a computer anymore without spell check having a seizure on your screen. That supremely annoying Microsoft Office paperclip above has managed to gain the wrath of everyone born after 1970. It's great that we have cell phones with email capabilities, but isn't a by-product of those luxuries the fact that you are now accessible in many situations where you really don't want to be accessible (especially in regards to work)? Go into any public bathroom, and you have those automatic-flushing toilets, automatic sinks, and motion-detecting paper towel dispensers. How unreliable are these things? Don't you just love having to wave your hand in front of those things like a jackass to try to get them to serve their function in life? Half the time they're broken anyway, leaving a foul-smelling bathroom with no paper towels to be had.

There's nothing wrong with most uses of technology in an effort to make things more user-friendly. The problem occurs when all of a sudden we are relying on overly involved or complicated systems to do simple and mundane tasks. And why have such elaborate developments been made in some of the seemingly least necessary areas? To counteract human ineptitude, of course!

There is no need for a motion-detection system wired to flush a toilet. There is no need for a laser-powered viewfinder to tell to a golfer exactly how far he is from the hole. Nor is there a real need for an autopilot mode built into new cars to essentially parallel park themselves. But somewhere along the line, laziness and ignorance won out. Auto-flush toilets became necessary because enough people thought it was OK to not flush. Bad golfers with money to burn never grasped the concept of playing by sight, and decided that a handheld surveying system would somehow offset their terrible swing and lack of instincts. A demand for parallel-park assist developed out of the apparent staggering decline in humanity's ability to operate a motor vehicle. The examples go on, but I'd like to think I've made my point.

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