Technology is a wonderful thing. It makes our lives simpler and more efficient, and has provided countless advances that have become essential to daily life. But with all of our technological advancements, we can become a little obsessed with “improving” things with technology that don’t necessarily need to be improved. Often, we go so far with our excitement about technological “advancement” that we add complexity to something that was previously incredibly simple. My lunch experience today was just one such occasion.
One of the partners at my firm and I decided to hit the local pizza buffet for lunch. We ordered up our buffets and drinks, grabbed our drink glasses, and were greeted by a jolly fellow standing at the soft drink machine. In the place of the usual five or six soda choices and the ice dispenser stood a machine with a single opening and one dispenser. Above it was a screen displaying multiple soft drink choices. The attendant happily gave us instructions on how to operate the soda fountain. Apparently it can dispense over 120 different flavors of soft drink. You touch your “base” soft drink on the touch screen, then select the variety of drink you want. For example, I wanted a Dr. Pepper. I touched the logo, and another screen appeared. I could choose between the original, Dr. Pepper Cherry, or Vanilla Dr. Pepper (I think). I just wanted my normal, everyday, original Dr. Pepper. Other choices, such as Diet Coke, had a much larger range of choices. It had cherry, vanilla, lime, raspberry, and maybe even orange.
It’s kind of a neat concept at first, but after about 1.7 seconds of thinking about it, you realize how silly this is. Wow, this soft drink dispenser now offers 120 different options! That’s so cool! Wait a second… No, it really isn’t. It just means that instead of pushing the lever under the Dr. Pepper spigot and receiving my Dr. Pepper menu, I have to navigate through touch-screen menu selections just to get the same soft drink choice that took me no time at all. I can’t even push the water lever; water has its own menu choice. Plus, those people who have zero decision making ability whatsoever will be paralyzed by the number of choices. What starts out as a refreshing beverage choice turns into an existential crisis! Oh, the humanity! Ultimately, this is just another area where technology makes a mundane experience that much more complex.
Speaking of technological complexity, the guys over at ESPN’s Baseball Tonight seem to have trouble working touch screens. God help you if you end up behind one of them at the soft drink dispenser!