Saturday, February 03, 2007

Just because you can doesn't mean you should

Many casual conversations between Ken, the Creative & Inspired Dreamer, and Kali, the Jaded & Doubting Realist, start out like this--
Ken: "Wouldn't it be cool if [insert a cockamamie idea that involves using a computer or technological substitute for something humans do innately]?"
Kali: "Now why do we need [above cockamamie idea]? That's so [adjective]."

The frustrating thing is, Ken seems to have a very good sense of what is to come despite it sounding scarily "1984" or "Matrix-esque". So either the government/big business is going to have a line on every possible aspect of your life OR the machines are going to become self-aware to the point they don't need us. Well, I exaggerate--but just a little. I actually think things are going the way of "oversharing". This blog could be an example that. But Ken told me about an application that allows you to note what websites you go to so you can share them with your friends. Because you really care what websites I go to. You can't go another day without knowing, can you? This is akin to my virtual bookshelf in the lower right corner of this blog that shows off what books I've read and have in my collection. Aren't I smart and hip? Look at my [fill in the blank]. MySpace, Flickr, Blogs, ratings/reviews--all this stuff is predicated on people caring what others think & like.

Ken & I continually contemplate the increasing role of technology in society and for future generations. We debate the convenience and the danger it brings. It is my opinion that the balance of the organic and the electron have become a very precarious thing. While the internet is a world-altering technological advancement that I can't live without, there are times when I want to turn it off. But just as working closely with technology makes me weary of what it changes, I've started to depend upon it that much more. Just today I renewed my driver's license online. This is the first time in my life I don't have to go to the DOL and stand in line for a new mug shot. I even get to keep the same cute picture from 2002 that I actually like. Everyone wins.

Now I wish we could have spared ourselves some human interaction and done this online today: we went into a CompUSA and bought a network hardware device. Perhaps I state the obvious but it seems that CompUSA's commission structure doesn't motivate the employees enough to value customer service as a long-term strategy for repeat business. I'm just saying that the people who we observed working for CompUSA are like the "C team" in high school sports. Not the people you want in the Big Game. What I wouldn't have given for us to skip the mind numbing insult of being handily ignored by three 20-something CompUSA employees so they could huddle together and chat about what movie they were going to see later. All the while, one lonely worker was left to service several waiting customers. To the Montlake Terrace CompUSA employees: I'm sorry our presence encroached on your social lives. Our mistake. Perhaps we'd be better served by the inhuman, unfriendly website--well actually, I'm sure of it.

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