Automation: Have We Taken this Crap Too Far?

November 15, 2011, By George Lang

It all started on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Turnpikes, at Howard Johnson’s, with automatic toilets and hand dryers. Of course you had to put a quarter in the hopper back then to actually gain access to the totally disgusting ceramic bowl whose automated flushing system had broken five users earlier. I thought they had wised up when I noticed recently they have started putting manual flushing knobs on the damn things; but you still have to stand there for five minutes after washing your hands when the heating element breaks in the hand dryers!

Of late, I had been so very happy because I’ve been thinking they had eliminated the Fee-to-Poo. And then, last weekend, I walked into a little shopping mall on the main drag in New Hope, Pennsylvania and had to pay seventy five cents to get into the Men’s Room. Now I am seriously considering moving out of Pennsylvania!

Automation has become a huge part of our everyday lives, and most of us depend on it to work without really knowing how it works, how to fix it when it breaks, or even how to operate the more complex technologies. Manufacturers have struggled to maintain a semblance of user-friendliness for their products; but competitive capitalism has hindered inter-corporate cooperation and the adoption of sufficient standards, making it nearly impossible to keep up with fleeting changes. Computers and handheld devices are prime examples. Ask yourself the following questions and try to answer them honestly:

  • Are we becoming too dependent on the automated devices we take for granted?
  • Do we really understand how the devices we use work?
  • Do we know how to fix them when they break? …or are they disposal technologies?
  • Has user-friendliness become too complex—if not impossible?


Sure, we could take it to the other extreme and live like they do in the Amish country; where, in most cases, the fields are still plowed by hand—back-breaking work—but when the plow breaks, they just make a new one and move right along. Ironically, many of the Amish are located in Pennsylvania; so, I guess I am going to have to take a great friend’s advice and simply relocate my crap to China!

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