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Michael's Metaphors of Life Journal

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Technology, Aldous Huxley and Bus Shelter Shopping

June 14th, 2013 by Michael Dyet

“Technological progress has merely provided us more efficient means for going backwards.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Hmmm, have our technological wizards lost their way in the quest to invent the next big thing?

I’ve always been a bit equivocal about technological advancement. I don’t dispute that on many fronts it has exponentially improved our lives. But more and more these days, I’m seeing the equation from Huxley’s perspective.

Three new technology leap-forwards came to my attention today. They seem both intriguing and frivolous at the same time.

Technology Leap-Forward #1: A new e-book company called “Total Box” has developed a pay-as-you-go reading model. Their technology tracks your reading progress so you only pay for the portion of the book you read if you decide you don’t like the book.

“Total Box”  representatives claim “it takes the pressure off readers when it comes to book buying decisions”. Some authors are calling it “the work of the devil”.

As a writer myself, I suppose I should be upset as well. But instead I find myself thinking: Really? You’re a technological genius and this is the best you’ve got to offer?

Technology Leap-Forward #2: “Points” – An intelligent street sign built to display a flexible range of data that apparently can monitor your tweets and, based on their content, point you to a restaurant in the area that you would supposedly enjoy.

But wait! There’s more. It can be programmed to change based on the time of day (i.e. are you hungry for breakfast or dinner) or the needs of a particular setting (i.e. sports scores at a stadium). Intriguing, yes. But, is where I’m going to eat tonight really such a burning question that someone needed to spend years developing technology to help me decide?

Technology Leaf-Forward #3: Walmart and Proctor & Gamble have launched mobile stores inside 50 Toronto bus shelters. You can scan QR codes on your mobile device to order Pampers diapers, Tide detergent or Crest toothpaste and have it delivered to your home.

Well, that’s a huge weight off my mind. I’ve been lying awake at night worrying that I might run out of detergent or toothpaste before I have time to go to the store to replenish my supply. I’ll sleep well tonight knowing I can drop by the nearest bus shelter to place my order.

Is it just me or are our technology saviours getting a little bit off course? I can think of a few areas where their time might be better spent. Finding a cure for cancer. Developing ways to feed starving people in third world countries. Minimizing our impact on
the earth we live on so the next generation won’t have to live with the consequences of our neglect.

The wheel is one of the oldest metaphors for the advance of technology. But it seems like the wheel has begun to turn backwards or, at the very least, is taking us down side roads that lead to nowhere.

A GPS device that points these technology wizards in a more productive direction – now that’s a technology leap-forward we would all appreciate.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com or the novel online companion at www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog. Visit www.smashwords.com to download a free preview of the e-book version.

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