GPS Device

  1. A device or mobile application designed to ensure that people will never be able to read maps ever again
  2. A device offering turn-by-turn navigation to strip away free will

Usage Example: “The restaurant should be right here, on the left… ‘Recalculating’… What? Did I pass it? I couldn’t have passed it… I must have passed it… Now it’s going to take five minutes to get back there? Why? That makes no sense. The GPS is taking me on the highway? This can’t be right. Maybe I should just make a U-turn. Do you think I should? No, I’ll just follow the GPS. It’ll get me there.”

Background: Americans are too good at geography. GPS manufacturers understand this, and are doing their best to take us down a few notches.

Twenty years ago, people were driving around using maps. They were calculating distances and reading paper maps like they were navigating the Oregon Trail. Thankfully, we now have a digital voice to tell us to turn right in 2 miles… turn right in .5 miles… turn right ahead… turn right… recalculating… complete a legal U-turn in .5 miles…

Likewise, twenty years ago, people remembered multiple phone numbers. Cellular phones were invented to ensure that people would barely be able to remember their own phone numbers, let alone anyone else’s. This frees up mental real estate to be used for more important things, like remembering 895 usernames and passwords.

GPS voice commands are powerful, and should not be underestimated. They fully control their users, and compel them to go along with irrational decisions. Drivers may know a better way to get to the other side of town, but the GPS is king. Anyone daring to defy GPS directions instantly feels like a criminal. While the GPS scolds the driver by constantly announcing that it is “recalculating”, drivers will often look around, making sure that the police didn’t see them disobey the device.

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Silica Gel

  1. Tiny gift bag of chemicals left by manufacturers of clothing and electronics
  2. Bossy, absorbent and possibly delicious substance that people are constantly warned not to eat

Usage Example: “I’d normally eat any item packaged with new electronics. It’s a good thing they warned me not to eat this silica gel.”

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Figure 1: Silica gel packet containing Abraham Lincoln quote

Background: Silica gel is a desiccant. A desiccant is a forbidden and possibly delicious substance that absorbs moisture to keep products dry.

Silica gel is unique for its stern and bossy warnings to consumers (see Figure 1). On most packages of silica gel, we are told that the bag does in fact contain silica gel, and are given two instructions:

  1. THROW AWAY
  2. “DO NOT EAT”

Few products ask consumers to immediately throw them away. This warning leaves the impression that silica gel is a dangerous substance. After seeing this warning, most people are intrigued, and ready to eat the “packet of mystery” to see how dangerous it really is. Fortunately, silica gel packets also warn customers not to eat them. On many silica gel packets, the “DO NOT EAT” command is in quotes, for some reason. Some attribute the “DO NOT EAT” command to Abraham Lincoln, who was known for his staunch opposition to eating any substance contained in small mystery bags.

After reading these two warnings, most consumers are quick to throw away the silica gel, assuming it to be a highly toxic and possibly radioactive substance. However, it is interesting to note that silica gel is non-toxic. And, not only is it non-toxic, but it is sometimes used as a food additive. This fact makes the stern “DO NOT EAT” command seem even more bossy and unnecessary.

Self-Checkout

  1. Sensitive machine allowing customers to fulfill their dreams of working in the grocery industry without pay
  2. Recent technological advancement helping humans reach their goal of never talking with anyone else, ever

Usage Example: “There is no unexpected item in the bagging area! Why did I pick the self-checkout line?”

Background: For people interested in doing their own dental work, comes the self-checkout machine. These machines allow customers to play “Fantasy Grocery Store.” While in the checkout line, few grocery store customers are able to resist the urge to jump over the counter and scan their own items. Thankfully, the industry has responded to this desire by providing customers with an easy way to work for their favorite stores without pay.

The self-checkout machine also helps customers meet another need: avoiding conversation at all costs. The invention of the cellular phone forever changed the trajectory of mankind’s desire to talk with one another. Before the invention of the cell phone, most technological advancements were geared toward making it easier for humans to talk with each other. However, the cell phone went too far, by providing an easy way for humans to talk with each other anywhere and at any time. It was all too much.

Realizing that a terrible mistake had been made, the following years focused on technological backpedaling that helped humans avoid conversation at all costs. Text messages, online ordering, online banking and self-checkout technology are all steps toward the new goal. Today, the average American makes more phone calls using a box of Nerds than with an actual phone.

Self-checkout machines may be a quirky, deceptive ploy for retail outlets to gain a free workforce, but at least they help us avoid accidentally engaging in conversations. If this trend continues, we can expect the “self-automotive repair kiosk” and “self-medical exam machine” to arrive in the coming years.

Android Applications

  1. Mobile software applications requiring access to all of a user’s data, possessions, hopes and dreams
  2. High-maintenance mobile software applications requiring updates and fixes approximately every eight seconds

Usage Example: “This Android app just asked for permission to search through my closets.”

Background: Using an Android phone is like having a terrible family road-trip in your pocket. All of your apps are constantly whining about something, and they simply will not stop.

Approximately every eight seconds, an Android app asks its owner a question. Here are some examples:

  • Calculator: “I have bugs, can I update myself?”
  • Facebook: “I noticed that you have some data on your phone that I can’t access yet… Please update me and give me access to it.”
  • Angry Birds: “Update me! I found a new way for your kids to spend your money by mistake!”
  • Google: “I have some cryptic problem that you wouldn’t understand… But it’s really important, so update me now!”
  • Facebook: “Hey – I see that you have some DMV records on your phone…Time to give ‘em up, pal!”
  • Android System: “Hey! I have an update. Time to take your phone offline and watch a spinning tesseract in the belly of a green robot for an hour and a half.”
  • Google Hindi Input: “I bet you didn’t even know I was here! Well, I need an update. You never know when you might make that trip to India.”
  • Facebook: “About your medical records…”

Autocorrect

  1. Bossy, electronic enabler for bad spellers
  2. Prank software that inexplicably found its way into every smartphone and word processing application

Usage Example: “I just spent two hours in Human Resources because autocorrect messed up a text to my boss.”

Background: When autocorrection functionality was first created by Microsoft, the concept was simple: enable bad spellers to continue to be bad spellers without even realizing it. Commonly misspelled words would be automatically changed to the correct spelling – thus guaranteeing that no one would ever know how to properly spell the words acceptable, conscientious, immediate or supersede, again. This goal was in fact achieved.

A secondary goal of the development team was to create software that would forcibly change the correct spellings of proper names and technical terms to words that would render messages funny and completely inappropriate. That goal was also achieved. Now, entire websites are dedicated to these “autocorrect fails”. To this day, developers are amazed that the “prankware” that they created is still so widely used.

In light of those facts, having autocorrect functionality on our phones is like having a bossy, older sibling with us at all times – constantly correcting us and always seeking opportunities to make fools of us.