Our Meile washing machine has more computer power than the first rocket launched into space. However, this labour saving wonder has a mind of its own. It knows if we have been doing too many washes at the economy rate of 40 degrees C and it punishes us by locking the door and refusing to perform. The instruction manual isn't much help. We try a dozen different things to get it going to no avail when suddenly it works. The trouble is we can't remember what we did to breathe it back to life.
Our Mercedes A class is 17 years old. It too has some chips in it but they are under the back seat and remnants of a trip to McDonald's. The good thing is that it starts every time with a turn of a key and it never lets us down. What is more there are multiple buttons with which we can work the heater, the radio, and open the windows.
Don't get us wrong. Technology frequently has a positive impact, saving energy and time. As consumers we love gizmos. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones have increased productivity by allowing us to work, access information, and collaborate on the go. Mobile phones and smartphones have revolutionized communication, enabling us to stay connected, make video calls, and access the internet from almost anywhere. Technology has transformed the way we communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.
But there are limits. The idea of a smart refrigerator with a touchscreen and internet connectivity promises a lot. However, when did our old fridges ever let us down? The new ones cost more, consume more energy and their complex systems lead to malfunctions. They are unlikely to last as long as the old faithfuls and yet we are drawn to them in the showroom because they promise so much.
There is no easy answer to this. Technology is with us and it affects most of the products we buy. It often is a hidden and silent operator, improving the performance of our products without us noticing. It is only when the washing machine fails to start that we wonder if the cost benefit trade-off is worth it.