Are you too lazy to use your remote control?
Well soon there will be a robot that does it for you.
This device operates using the same kind of “convenience tax” that the Windows operating system uses. I have tried to explain what the problem with this “learning tax” is in other posts, but I think that this device illustrates it better than an operating system, however the problem is exactly the same.
Say you have an average remote like mine — that has 100 functions on it. (sure, when you combine keys and include soft menus it is MUCH MUCH more than that — but we are talking about a concept here — so don’t get all weird on the math.)
Out of those 100 functions — I use on average 5 every day, and an additional 8 over the course of any month. For the first week (the initial learning curve) I’m going to remember how to use most of what I have learned with the remote, and the robot will learn all of that and store it with it’s voice activation.
So now, a couple of weeks have gone by – my 13 functions are programed in, the remote itself migrates under the couch or into the desk drawer. I am watching TV one night and I come across an opportunity to use one of the 87 other functions I can access through the remote. I never programed the robot to handle that function — the remote is across the room. If I am like most people I will just forgo the flexibility of those 87 additional functions rather than getting up and poking around with the remote. And don’t even get me started about what I never learned because I’m too retarded to read the manual.
So the cost of the convenience of the new device actually dramatically hobbles the usefulness of the tool that I have interfaced with it, a device which is probably actually much more useful than I ever got to experience — despite having paid for 100% of its functionality through the purchase price.
I first learned this law of human behavior when I spent a year in physics and calculus classes with my new HP48G and watched the very bright science and engineering students around me SIMPLY IGNORE the astounding functionality of their tools. Despite being technologically competent, and needing the functions that the calculator had, they lacked the — what was it — vision? insight? to read past the quick start guide. People paid $100 for a calculator which they only ever used $19 worth of. WHY?
This is the heart of the difference between command line learners and GUI learners. It is a real problem — through 10 years of tech support I would say it is the number one problem faced by computer users. You see this especially in the case of Mac users — who have convenient widgets to do most of what they want — can’t do it with a widget? It can’t be done.
A dramatic example that affects almost everyone who uses computers is the “convenience” afforded by packaged music software like “I-tunes” — the graphic interface of I-tunes is SO EASY to use. After you have used it for a couple of years you completely forget what you could actually accomplish with CDparanoia, lame, and sox.
If you love music I deeply encourage you to get out there and learn the command line of those three programs. But of course you won’t — because you have I-tunes, and you run it on default mode, and if you have to spend ninty-nine cents to get a song on your Ipod that you already had on your Zune — well — money is cheap. But the other things that you lose are quality and flexibility. You will pay more for less — as witnessed by the avalanche of shitty mp3s that are available on various file sharing sites.
And when you get in the habit of paying a convenience tax on everything in your life, you will find that you are working twice as many hours to get the same goods and services. All I can think is that you must really love your job.
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