The two stories which prompt this post made the rounds within a couple of days of each other. They illustrate the difference between two types of technological advances.
In the one case we have (1) a technological advance we’ve actually requested, in contrast to being brainwashed into it; (2) the new product will improve our lives; and (3) the technology will generally enhance economic productivity. What a deal! I am referring to the self driving car. Check out the story in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ):
In the other case, the technology is an example of yet another high tech toy which is enticing, has little value other than to entertain, is annoying to many, and adds nothing to productivity. Indeed, it’s likely to subtract from it. I refer here to the tiny, high resolution cameras the size of buttons marketed to consumers, that can be worn on shirts and blouses, unbeknownst to others, and record everything in sight. If you want to call attention to them, they come in designer colors which to match your Google glasses. Check out the story, also in WSJ (online):
I disparage only the consumer gadget, play thing version of this technology, not the entire genre which includes, for example, tiny cameras to perform colonoscopies without having plumber’s snakes shoved up our butts…..and which thus enhance our lives (the tiny cameras, that is).
Let me also explain why I am not impressed by new high tech tools that are overwhelmingly just for entertainment. We have way too many of those. All they do is replace one form of entertainment with another. We may embrace them, but we wouldn’t miss them had they never arrived on the scene.
Do you ever recall a time when you couldn’t figure out how to be entertained? The challenge was, and still is, carving out the time, not finding something to do that was fun. It’s time savers, like dish washers, which materially improve life, because they give us more time to enjoy ourselves or be creative. Humans have never been at a loss to find ways of doing that…..given the time.
So, thumbs up for the self driving car, which will save lives, reduce insurance costs, and enable old or disabled people to “drive” their vehicles. That will be especially good if we can also reduce carbon emissions. And a middle finger for the tiny shirt button cameras and their purveyors, who are of course free to invent such things in our free enterprise system. Wouldn’t want to have that any other way.