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Adventures of a Luddite II

May 23, 2011

It so doesn’t need to be said, but I will anyway:  Just because technology lets you do something doesn’t mean that you should do it.  Or that it is even a good idea.

Today we have three examples.

On our recent trip to the US, we rented a car for the drive from Florida to Ohio.  It was a really nice car.  I liked it.  But after we’d been on the road for about 20 miles a little indicator light came on.  I didn’t recognize the icon—it wasn’t an oil can or gas pump or anything like that.  And anyway, it was yellow so I assumed that nothing catastrophic was happening so I kept on driving.

At the next stop I consulted the manual (don’t get me started on how easy it was to find what I was looking for in the phone book sized manual) and learned that the indicator light meant that one of the car’s tires was underinflated.

Intuitive, in retrospect:

I experienced disbelief on two levels.  First, the tires all looked fine to me and the car drove perfectly, so I didn’t believe that there was a tire problem.  Second, I found myself wondering why they put something on a car to inform you about a something you can already tell just by looking.

I was faced with conflicting evidence.  My experience with driving and my sensory input vs. the computer in the car which was saying I had a low tire. 

If the car hadn’t been equipped with the tire pressure indicator system, I wouldn’t have even thought about the tires.  There wasn’t a single shred of evidence, other than the light, that there was a problem.  But I said to myself, “Hmm, the computer is saying there’s a problem.  Maybe it’s more sensitive than me.  Maybe I better check.”

So the next time we gas up I decide to top up the tires as well.  Guess what?  They charge you a buck to put air in your tires now.  When did that start?  Anyway, I got my dollar’s worth of air and away we went.

About 20 miles later, the light came back on.  Once again, there was no indication of any problem based on observation of the tires and the way the car was driving.  Again, thinking that the computer was smarter than me, I thought I might have a puncture and a slow leak so that evening I backed the car forward and backward a few times and did a visual and manual inspection, both of which were negative.

I then decided to tackle the manual again to learn more about the system.  There are fifteen pages of information, few of which are either comprehensible or enlightening.  I did however learn that if the light is on all the time you have a problem, but if it comes on only after you’ve driven about 20 miles the system is out of whack and needs to be reset by an authorized technician.

That part of the manual had all those little exclamation points in triangles that are supposed to get your attention.  The warning was to get the system reset immediately because if it’s malfunctioning the tires might be low and I wouldn’t know it!!

How has the human race survived this long?

That light stayed on until I got to Cleveland and for all I know someone is driving the car somewhere with flawless tires and a tire warning light glowing. 

Some people seem to think that technology will solve all their problems.  For example, I saw an article about a Canadian couple who were driving from Canada to Las Vegas and ended up lost in Nevada for 48 days because they neglected to look out the window and relied solely on the GPS.

Think about it—that’s a month and a half. 

The wife was rescued by hunters—she stayed with the car but the husband went for help and is still out there somewhere. 

Maybe I’m not a trusting soul, but when the GPS in our rental car said “turn left” I checked to make sure there were no cars coming.  Similarly, if I was on a major highway heading for a major city and it told me to exit onto smaller and smaller roads, I ignored it and paid attention to the road signs.  As the article said, “Authorities say that such incidents show there is no substitute for common sense.”

So with that in mind, let’s consider the latest technology offering from, where else, Japan.  It’s called Necomimi, which means “cat ears” in Japanese.

The reason it’s called cat ears is because it is a set of ears that look like cat ears that you wear on your head.  But there is some sort of brain wave sensor in the head band that picks up your emotions and little motors in the ears move them so that people can see how you feel.  There are four basic positions that indicate whether you are nervous, focused, relaxed or if your brain activity is low (they “flap gently back and forth” in those cases).

Of course this technology has useful and practical applications for the disabled.  But the people who developed Necomimi “wanted something for all to enjoy.”


Not only that, they think that there may be applications to help people who are “reclusive or shy around strangers.”  Can you picture a shy person going to a party wearing a set of cat ears to communicate?  That would definitely help their social life.

Look for Necomimi later in 2011.  According to the article the price tag will be “several hundred dollars” per set of ears. 

Read My Ears!

Somehow I think Necomimi will go the route of mood rings.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 1:35 pm

    Sorry about your tire, Tom…glad you made it to Cleveland, though!

    I don’t think I’ll be investing in those “cat ears” any time soon…I’m quite happy with the “system” I have now (my brain)…


  2. May 23, 2011 2:39 pm

    What do you think of Google’s self-driving cars? In tests so far, they’ve apparently avoided all accidents.

    (I’m a Luddite with an iPhone hidden in my butt pocket.)

  3. May 23, 2011 3:27 pm

    From the perspective of a car dealer, those tire sensors are a pain. They are overly sensitive and are easily damaged and expensive to replace. I could see them being discontinued at some point in time at least in their present configuration.
    I’m already tired of explaining the meanings of all the icons on to new car customers. Could we please just have words to read???
    I can so relate to GPS and getting lost in Rapid City, SD but it didn’t take me 48 days to figure out that the GPS didn’t take us to where we wanted to go.

  4. May 23, 2011 3:41 pm

    We’re neoluddites and that’s nothing to be ashamed of—we don’t want to lose our ability to think and reason on our own, right?

    The “check engine” light has been on in my car for 5 years now. GPS bothers me because it eliminates another life skill, reading a map. I wouldn’t want it. Nor do I want to carry around a gadget that I can go online with, a total distraction to your task at hand, and the people you’re with. How absurd when a group of people have gotten together to do something and they’re all on their phones!

    I don’t think that low air icon is intuitive—I wouldn’t have figured it out if my life depended on it!

    I don’t even trust Mapquest—it’s thrown me off course more than once.

    So many gadgets, so little communication.

  5. Snoring Dog Studio permalink
    May 24, 2011 12:16 am

    Technology addicts have made the world such a difficult place to live. Somewhere, someone must be begging for all of these “improvements,” otherwise, why would they keep on coming? There’s an entire professional society devoted to creating and promoting intuitive symbols and icons but I don’t think any of them are working in the car industry. Why oh why wouldn’t they have used a symbol of a flat tire instead?

  6. May 24, 2011 1:09 am

    The best solution for those pesky warning lights that ya don’t need is a roll of black electricians tape. Just cut a small piece off the roll and tape it to the offending part of your dashboard.
    Re: cat ears. The Good Lord gave me His original version of Japanese cats ears. It resides in my trousers, and is usually a good indicator of how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling particularly joyous, its quite obvious, but difficult to walk 🙂

  7. May 24, 2011 9:56 am

    I saw that about the couple lost for 48 days because of GPS. Surely, there’s something going on that we don’t know about, such as dementia.

    Not to sound judgemental, but those cat ears are stupid.

  8. May 24, 2011 10:15 am

    I can’t find Part I. Where is it?

  9. May 24, 2011 10:46 am

    Not sure where it went but you can find it here:

  10. May 24, 2011 2:13 pm

    Tom , you are the man, I find what you saw is very common , My idiot
    light came on in my car and the Mechanic said oh thats happens all the time
    it will reset itself, thank you and $75 later said keep an eye on it LOL. So
    I am glad you are out there confirming what we all see and you give me a
    bit of peace of mind, Your visit to your parents this time showed you
    why you went away and found a new life, I just might follow,Ray

  11. May 25, 2011 9:31 am

    I actually own a mood ring — as of less than a week ago. I always wanted one. Back in the 1980s I worked in a university psychology department (we also roped in Education and Physical Fitness Management) which was conducting, at the time, a stress management grant study. I occasionally got detailed to do muscle releases on people so wired that a surface EMG device produced constant static without modulation. Anyway the project used Biodots, which contain the same liquid crystal compound as mood rings, but are a bit more accurate because the stick right to the skin surface, and go all teh way from muddy amber-black when you’re stressed and have contracted surface capillaries, all the way to beautiful peacocky blue-greens at the apogee of vasodilation. The only way I could get blue green of nirvana was to lock myself in the department bathroom and turn the tap on. That was when I knew I had to get out.

    It struck me, recently, that it was a good technology to have around.

  12. May 27, 2011 12:49 pm

    Oh, the cat ears… I am all out of words for them.

  13. May 27, 2011 1:56 pm

    Clearly they are not as practical as cats eyes.
    You should have put some blu tac over the light, your problems would hae all gone away. lol

  14. May 28, 2011 10:14 am

    I love that second sentence in the first paragraph. It’s a variation on something that my wife has always said; just because you CAN wear something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD wear it. So true.

    The rest of this post was brilliant as well Thomas!

  15. June 5, 2011 11:51 am

    …and a reclusive shy person would be the type to don such a ridiculous party accessory!?! Obviously designed by an extrovert :p

  16. June 5, 2011 9:48 pm

    I am Presbyterian but may convert to a Luddite. I never had a cell phone. Runaway frivolous technology is the bane of civilization. Thanks for visiting my blog. I think I will enjoy your take on things very much and I have subscribed.

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