Stupid tech: From the iPotty to delivery drones

Our fascination with digital junk encourages bozos to toss stupid and sometimes dangerous products into the marketplace

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Although I hope the airlines don't allow in-flight cellphone use even if the feds permit it, I have to admit there's a potential advantage that I don't know how to square with the huge disadvantage: Having a cellular connection to download data and email would be very useful -- and not at all annoying. But you can't have cellular data without cellular voice. Given how truculent many passengers can be, it's hard to imagine that voice calls would be banned if cellular data usage is permitted. I wouldn't want to be the flight attendant trying to get some bozo in seat 25C to shut up.

The idea of drones delivering packages to your door is so weird and so off-the-wall I can't believe anyone is taking it seriously. But ever since Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the idea on "60 Minutes," it's been talked about incessantly.

It's so patently hazardous to have who knows how many of those things buzzing around your neighborhood that it's not worth arguing about. (Yet people are.) It gets worse: The potential for others to launch drones equipped with cameras while disguised as innocent delivery drones is nearly as frightening.

There's a larger point to be made: Why is it so important to get your new shirt delivered in 30 minutes? As Maureen Dowd remarked in her New York Times column this week, there's already a way to do that: Go to the store. In any event, what is the extreme rush to get a new grill for the barbeque?

Driverless cars? I don't think so
Google now claims that its small fleet of driverless cars is already as safe as human-guided cars because it has racked up 500,000 miles without an accident. I'm sure that's true, but think about how carefully engineered and maintained those cars must be. Certainly, they get frequent inspections, and the software and hardware controlling them are tweaked all the time by really good engineers.

Now consider your car. Do you inspect the brakes very often? And when was the last time you had someone examine the suspension or the wheel bearings? Those are all mission-critical systems, but we take them for granted -- and many accidents are caused by that neglect. If you had a driverless car, who would maintain the software and hardware needed to keep it safe? Would your neighborhood mechanic be able to do that? Would we have to check in at the Google Garage once a month?

And what happens when there's an unexpected software crash? I think we're talking about a whole new meaning to "blue screen of death."

I rest my case.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill@billsnyder.biz. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Stupid tech: From the iPotty to delivery drones," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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