Self-monitoring toilets and other modern conveniences

There is this article that Dan Lewis of Now I Know pointed to: Why Nothing Works Anymore, with the subtitle “Technology has its own purposes.”

“The contemporary public restroom offers an example. Infrared-sensor flush toilets, fixtures, and towel dispensers are sometimes endorsed on ecological grounds—they are said to save resources by regulating them. But thanks to their overzealous sensors, these toilets increase water or paper consumption substantially. Toilets flush three times instead of one. Faucets open at full-blast. Towel dispensers mete out papers so miserly that people take more than they need. Instead of saving resources, these apparatuses mostly save labor and management costs. When a toilet flushes incessantly, or when a faucet shuts off on its own, or when a towel dispenser discharges only six inches of paper when a hand waves under it, it reduces the need for human workers to oversee, clean, and supply the restroom.”

Surely I have experienced this. In the previous building I worked in, the toilet flushed an average of 2.5 times every time. Not only would the faucets only turn on with proper distance wave, they would often fail to turn off even ten minutes later. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I’m not the handiest person in the world, but I have opened the back of a standard toilet to get it to work again. I think this is the same frustration car owners have with everything so calibrated that they can’t fix what’s under the hood. It gives me an uneasy feeling.

I went to this home show maybe decade or so ago, and we marveled how wonderful a “smart” house would be, knowing how efficient it would be. Likewise the driverless car. These would be particular wonders to the elderly and the disabled. But can they be hacked?

Or go rogue? I think of HAL in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, or the characters in the movie Westworld. I don’t think I’m just being a Luddite when I get wary that technology will always make our lives easier. Maybe paranoid, though.

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