Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In the future, nothing will work

When I was a kid and I wanted to know the temperature outside, I called a phone number.  My brother and I still have that number memorized (973-3555).  Unfortunately, Time and Temperature went dead around 2003, after probably close to a decade without an advertisement on their recording.  Here's what I liked about that service: the temperature was always correct.  Now, when I want to know the temperature, I use the internet.*  The problem that I've discovered with this approach is that it's almost always wrong, and often ridiculously so.  The other day said it was 28 degrees fahrenheit in my zip code.  It was at least 70 degrees out.  This morning it was "33 degrees" according to my OS X dashboard widget, which is apparently computer for "about 55."  My point: everything is getting worse.

The other day, I bought a pizza to pick up from Domino's.  The pizza was ready when I arrived at the shop.  I walked in and gave them my debit card.  TWENTY MINUTES LATER they had figured out how to exchange my money for their product.  I don't blame the employees in the shop; I'm sure the register system is a nightmare, no doubt thrust upon them by the shop's owner, who bought it from the franchise, who uses it to track sales to make sure they're getting their cut.  The software developer who designed it did so to the specs handed to him/her by the franchise, which probably didn't include a proviso that it should be impossible to add breadsticks to a customer's order when his kids are screeching for dinner in the car outside,** but that feature crept in there somewhere and it didn't get worked out because nobody at any stage of the development of the Domino's POS system either noticed or cared enough to fix it.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: when the robotic uprising happens, it's not going to be anybody in particular's fault, but we're going to have to serve our robotic overlords nonetheless.

* I'm not going to buy a thermometer, so don't even suggest it.

** I give my children pizza every once in a while to keep them from becoming stronger than me.

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