Saturday, April 01, 2006

Advanced Technology, the oxymoron

Took a night off and went bowling this evening. Wait, pardon me, went XTreme Bowling. Black light, cheesy music, all that good stuff. Is it me or does anyone else flash back to nervous sweaty high school dances when you're at these things?

Anyways... on to the point of this post. I experienced a moment of clarity at the Mar Vista Lanes: Technology is making us stupid. Here's my case.

I just finished bowling double Turkeys (it's my story, I retain the right to embellish) and to celebrate, I scooted off to grab a few longnecks. I found the bar between the lockers and the bathroom. Hehe, everyone needs to experience a bar like this. If there's a warehouse somewhere in this country that provides all the necessary elements to make your bar into a dive, this place cleaned the warehouse out. Even the house drunk had a lazy eye. Amongst all this, standing out like an international volunteer at a famine camp, was a touch screen register, the type you find at chain restaurants.

This machine has probably seen better days at TGIFridays; well for that matter, so has the bartender. As I walked in, she was punching in a well-practiced sequence of buttons. However, something was not going right. Whatever she expected to happen, didn't happen. I watched her hit that sequence 10 times (I started counting after 5). She called for backup at that point and I then watched the other bartender repeat the sequence another 5 times. For the next 3 minutes, they tried different variations of the same sequence. Finally, the guy that ordered drinks pulled out smaller bills and settled the tab.

You're probably way ahead of me, so I'll make this quick. I should have walked away but I ordered my beers and watched her proceed to pointlessly jab at the machine again. The visual of a rat in a cage hitting the pellet lever flashed by.

"I just need eight bucks back," I offer. The bartender turns around and looks at me with a mixture of puzzlement and scorn. "It doesn't work," she grunts before turning back to it. I don't think she noticed when took back my money and walked out (without the beers).

I'm confused. How did we get to this point? I know this one example is not indicative of society as a whole but I know this is not unique. I've been in a grocery store that shut down because the scanners didn't work. I've been in a restaurant that asked everyone to leave because the microwave broke down (no joke).

To wrap this story up, I'm drinkless, so I search around for an alternative and find a soda machine. A soda machine made for morons. Someone gave the buttons on this Pepsi machine steroids. They were ridiculously HUGE!

Was Pepsi losing money on the old machines because people couldn't find the freak'n buttons? Was there a memo that said that making the buttons 250% bigger increased sales by the same amount? Somehow, using this machine made me feel like an idiot.

Look, technology is great but without a doubt, it's sucking common sense and innovation right out of us. I have a tech-related job and my job is to introduce more tech into people's lives. Tonight, I sincerely became worried that I will somehow contribute to this suckage. Specifically, are games contributing to the dumbing down of our society?

Like our bartender friend and her register, gamers in games are expected to hit very specific sequence of buttons/actions and then they expect to be rewarded for it. Will we turn out an automaton society that expects to be rewarded in real life, the same way as in games. I did X, Y and Z, where's my comfy middle class life? I did the grind, show me my just desserts. Let's hope not. Let's hope that games are also building up critical thinking as well as this steady pursuit of defined goals.

I'm overreacting. Right?

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