Annoyance Tech: Zap ’em, Don’t Bother Talking to ’em

In the “If Life Gives You Lemons Make Lemonade” Department…

 Jennifer Saranow in her interesting Wall Street Journal Article “Revenge by Gadget” (Weekend Journal, 8/17/07) describes technological solutions to avoid unpleasant encounters. 

Meeting going too long? Have your cell phone fake a call to you in the middle to get out of it. 

Don’t like passengers talking on their cellphones during the ride?  Jam their cellphones with a cellphone blocker.

Get touched when you don’t want it?  Buy an electrified jacket that shocks them.

Don’t like someone’s driving?  Press a button and flash them a sign from your back window, like “Back Off” or “Idiot”.

Don’t like kids hanging around?  Buy the Kids Be Gone and emit high frequency sounds that keep them away.

In an era of increased social isolation and declining social capital (when we’re “Bowling Alone“) when it seems harder to talk with others about finding common ground,  it’s probably inevitable that we find technological solutions that promise insta-remedies.  These solutions in many cases may be penny-wise and pound-foolish, because especially for folks we are likely to encounter over time (our business colleagues, our train mates, etc.), it’s only a matter of time until word leaks out of these gadgets (what techies call “annoyance tech”).  And soon we ignite an arms-race for the most powerful gadget (does your blocker block his blocker and if not, can you buy a more powerful new version?).   These tech-wars are now doubt good for entrepeneurs who want to sell upgrades, but what about society?

In the age of high tech, it’s obvious we seek solutions that seem as instantaneous as a remote control that seemingly makes unwanted people disappear (just like undesired TV programs), but life is a bit more messy and complicated than that.  And the sooner we practice and hone our atrophying people skills, the better we’ll all be in long run.  At the risk of sounding school-marmish, we need to practice being forthright but polite.

Full “Revenge by Gadget” article available here.

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