Adventures of a Luddite II
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.