Technology for the goodness sake of it


In full disclosure, you should know that I love what technology can do for me.  I love that it allows me to continue the Professor Hobo strips via a web site and Facebook page.  I love that it allows me to share classic films with my wife via Netflix instant streaming.  I love that my cell phone not only gives me directions when I’m in a new city, but also tells me where the closest Jamba Juice is, just in case.  Each of these is something that technology, as a tool, allows me to do.

I hate technology for its own sake.  Sure, I marvel at the newest inventions just like most others.  When I see the new 3D high definition televisions rolling into Best Buy I’m as impressed as anyone, if not more so.  But I also question, what is the end benefit here?  Do I have any real desire to sit on my couch with a pair of 3D glasses on all to watch Charlie Rose?  Not really, and I really like Charlie Rose.  Like, really.  It’s sort of unhealthy.  Please respond to my fan mail, Mr. Rose.

This topic came to my mind while on vacation recently in Nashville, TN.  While my cell phone guided my flawlessly to the Opry Mills Mall to meet a friend, it could not prepare me for the dumbstruck awe of the sight I was about to see.  There, in the middle of the mall, was a Coke machine.  Oh, but not any mere Coke machine.  No, my friends, this was a touch screen Coke machine.

Allow that to seep in for a moment.  It was a six-foot Coke Machine whose entire face was a touch screen video monitor.  Where is the benefit in this?  What can a touch screen allow me to do with a Coke machine that a normal model would not?  I was intrigued.  After playing around with the interface for a few moments, I came to the conclusion that it did two things.  First, it allowed me to spin around a 360 degree model of the bottle.  This was worthless.  Second, it was far more cumbersome to “browse” the different sodas this particular machine offered.  I actually had to scroll between two pages.  Really.

Now, the marketers among you may argue that just getting me to stop was the whole worth of this machine, and you might have a point.  I did buy a Coke later, though from a more mundane, traditional machine.  But the cost of this setup, in a building that only sells Coke products to begin with, seems ridiculous and pointless.  Coke might grab my attention once, but long term I’ll buy a Coke not because of a fancy interface, but because I’m thirsty.  It’s technology for the sake of it.

On the other hand, I did just mention Coke ten times in an article that will be indexed by Google and increase its ranking as one of the most used terms on the Internet, thus increasing its brand value.  You win this round, Coke (eleven).


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