Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year?

"Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy."
- Louis C.K., on the amazing and sometimes frustrating things that technology has done for society.
The remote for my sophisticated cable box recently broke. At least, I thought the remote was broken, since the delay in the box recognizing entries caused me to have to take it back to the cable company to get a new one. The new remote didn't work any better than the old one, and I figured I would have to get a new cable box, causing me further inconvenience.
As it turned out, all I had to do was turn the box off for a few minutes and turn it back on, which was a last-ditch effort to fix the problem without actually fixing anything. Turning something off and on again is a half-assed attempt, but in this case it was the solution, and as Occam's Razor taught us, the simplest solution is the best.
NEW YORK (AFP) – The bells weren't ringing for many iPhone users this New Year's weekend, when thanks to a glitch the alarms on Apple's iconic mobile phones failed to go off, causing many to oversleep. It was the second time in just a few months that the alarm function on the phone failed to activate correctly, prompting an avalanche of complaints on the social networking micro-blog Twitter.
"Dear iPhone, why didn't your alarm go off this morning? I set six of them. I've now missed church. Thanks for nothing," said one user Sunday morning.
"Some sort of digital iPhone pandemic is going on. Alarm clock failure reports are pouring in from all sources around the globe," said another Twitter user.
Apple said in a message sent to Macworld magazine that the California-based company was aware of the problem. "We're aware of an issue related to non-repeating alarms set for January 1 or 2."
Most of us have regular alarm clocks, and they work as they have worked since Polk was president. Some, however, prefer to rely on technology to do things that normal appliances have done for centuries. The downside, as we know, is that when they malfunciton, we are left wondering why we relied on a "non-repeating alarm" from a device that hasn't lived as long as some of your kids.
Then, you're frustrated and angry because your technology has let you down. Just as you are when your cable goes out, your 3G cell phone connnection loses its grip or your fancy GPS device sends you through Manhattan to get to the Catskills.
It's all part of our so-called enhanced lifestyle, and the enhancements have made it easier in the sense that we can now use technology to make it seem as though our lives are somehow better because we can use gimmicks to do things that our ancestors did with their fingers and things that are plugged into the wall. Not only that, but these gimmicks also cost us money.
Once one buys an alarm clock or a paper map, the expense is done. The gimmicks carry monthly service fees or expensive upgrades. The trade-off is that you aren't supposed to have to think about anything. That trade-off dies a miserable death when your expensive iPhone application doesn't work.
Or you have to (God forbid) get out of your chair to change the channel on your television, set an alarm or read a map. We don't think as much as we used to, partly because we prefer to let electronics think and act for us. The trouble with that is that the devices don't have any stake in getting anything right. At least when we mis-read a map or set the wrong alarm time, we're responsible. When those things malfunction it probably makes you wish you had just set an alarm clock or wrote something on a piece of paper.
Because your iPhone doesn't have to get up for work on time.

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