The story of technology frequently has been the development of things we never knew we wanted. No one really needed in iPad or a Nook tablet until technology told us we did. We were getting along just fine with films before digital movie projectors came along. For that matter, we all may have been a lot less tense when we had an office phone, a home phone, and nothing else tethering us in between.
Now, undeniably, technology has worked in ways to make our lives so much easier, businesses so much more profitable, and news and entertainment so much more accessible. But technology companies constantly seem to be putting the exclamation point before the verb—stirring immense excitement over the pending release of some device, service or software before consumers have stated a need, desire, awareness or acknowledgement that such an offering would be a welcome change. We didn’t need it—until we did. This phenomenon may be recapped as, “Invention is the mother of necessity.”
I guess that’s how markets are made, but I think it’s time that business professionals and consumers alike started enumerating the technology they actually do want and need in their lives and then demand that innovators create it. It’s time to Occupy the Cloud! It’s past time for us to engage in forward thinking instead of window shopping for the latest tech.
I have six “Items that I Really Need” on my checklist and herewith issue my challenge across the Valley to bring these capabilities to my home and office:
- The self-cleaning house. We have self-cleaning ovens; can’t we extend that technology to the entire house—without burning it down or becoming uncomfortably toasty? Think of the productive time that husbands, wives and dorm-room tenants would save and the environmental enhancements such a device would bring.
- Biofeedback-adjusted eyeballs. I’m constantly hunting for my glasses and succeed on my quest about 75% of the time. Can’t technology put some kind of capsule in my wristwatch (Yes, I wear a wristwatch—deal with it) that allows me to use biofeedback techniques to lengthen or compress the lenses in my eyes or reshape my eyeballs to focus on the task at hand? I’d save all that searching time and do a better job of reading, driving and finding my mouth with my fork.
- Self-editing editorial copy. Of course, we have spell-and-grammar check, but everyone knows that this still rudimentary technology often misses errors, suggests corrections where none are needed, and may produce an unjustifiable sense of confidence in the author. The self-editing document would likely antiquate half the work I do every day—but it would give me time to pursue the other, more creative half.
- The social-media engagement button. Public relations practitioners constantly are urging clients, not just to participate in, amplify and measure their participation in social media networks, but also to “engage” with the denizens of those sites. As Far Field Productions asks at the end of the credits for Bones, “What’s that mean?” Set up a group? Answer tweeters’ questions? Compliment them on their fonts? Hey, technology, you gave us social media; now figure out this engagement thing and . . . just . . . build it in, so we can click “Like,” “Share,” or “Engage.” How much time we would save right there!
- The self-mowing lawn. The benefits of the self-mowing lawn are self-evident. Certainly technology could invent a grass that grows two inches high and then continuously sheds its top, dropping its own nutritious clippings on which it will feed and shed for future generations. Such techno-grass would enable us to enjoy our Saturdays; reduce smog; and cut the demand for gasoline, oil and bandages simultaneously.
- The meeting-bot. Some of us spend half or more of our day in meetings—listening, collecting information, commenting, offering recommendations, giving instruction. Computers, clouds and websites already can do all those things. Life would be so much more productive if our personal meeting robot could roll into the conference room with all the other bots from the office, exchange information and make decisions in milliseconds, and roll back to us with a PowerPoint presentation detailing our next required actions. We could actually get some work done this way—and maybe the bot could be programmed to say “Atta boy” and pat us on the back.
What do you want technology to tackle to make your life better? We’ll probably never see the self-balancing budget or the 30-second standing rib roast, but please comment (er. . . engage) on the devices you’d really like to hang on your belt.