For Christmas I got an insulated USB coffee mug. This is a picture of it plugged into one of my laptops.
It cracks me up. But I'm sure a lot of my people would call it the perfect gift for me. It's hard to think about me apart from coffee or computers. And if the people who gave it to me are reading this, thank you. I will use it. And to be fair it also has an adapter to plug it into your car cigarette lighter.
But here's what I'm wondering. I'm wondering how valuable progress really is, and where it's taking us.
If you don't know of Tim Hawkins, you may not appreciate the humor of an electric toothbrush (below). It's all about laziness. But now there's something for the more disciplined among us, or more fearful—the wireless toothbrush. The wireless toothbrush streams data to a remote display, prompting you how long and how hard to brush. I'll bet Wireless Toothbrush 2.0 will include an accelerometer based on the iPhone's to determine exactly which tooth you're brushing and at what angle. But then where does it go?
I know better than to make a slippery slope argument. But I do wonder what the slope might look like with the likes of a wireless toothbrush. Maybe the insurance companies will get ahold of this and give discounts to anyone who promises they have bought a wireless toothbrush, and that they brush their teeth 3 times a day for 2 minutes (hey, it could happen—they give me one if I promise I bought an alarm system for my home, and that it’s monitored). But then, men like control, don’t they? If those insurance companies could figure out a way to monitor my tooth brushing themselves, they wouldn’t need to trust my promise (kind of like the way the state dials my car’s computer into their computer when I get a mandatory yearly car inspection). I doubt the insurance companies would pass a law requiring me to submit tooth brushing data. But they don’t have to. If it costs $25/month with a wireless toothbrush and $150/month without, it’s law enough. There’s written laws and there’s unwritten laws. Ask anyone who doesn’t go to church.
When you think about it, the promise of progress is exaltation. Whether it's in technology or in the church or wherever, it's about me escaping the common human plight, setting me apart from the less fortunate, and making me feel like a god. It sounds great up front, but the side effects are hell.