When Gadgetry Goes Too Far

by Michelle Schusterman May 4, 2010
Michelle Schusterman questions whether some gadgets are best left as doodles in the margins of a comic book.

The most common complaint, if it counts as a complaint, I’ve heard about the iPad is this: “Well, I don’t need it.”

And my reaction is…well, duh. I don’t need my iPhone, or my laptop. Hell, I don’t need a lot of things I own, but they sure make life more fun and convenient. But considering our e-waste problem and the fact that most people still don’t even recycle their cell phones, is there a point where inventing gadgets just for the sake of saying “hey, look at this here crazy doodad!” goes too far?

A few cases in point:

USB Heating Slippers

Heated slippers, robes, and blankets already exist, but can you plug them into your PlayStation? I admire cleverness and ingenuity, but at some point we need to consider the long-term effect of our inventions.

iCarta iPod Stereo Dock and Bath Tissue Holder

Okay, so you could use it to sing along in the shower, but the first thing that comes to my mind is just how long would you have to be sitting on the throne to need an iPod charger handy? The Amazon description says this gadget is “perfect for the music lover who has everything,” and that’s my problem – more gadget junk created for the purpose of a quick laugh and lifetimes in a landfill.

Flower Pot Speaker

It’s like those rock speakers for garden stereo systems. Clever, but I doubt party guests are really looking around in slack-jawed amazement, wondering where on earth that heavenly music is coming from. I think my issue here is that most people who own a computer will already have speakers, and what happens to them when this flower pot takes their place? Recycled – maybe. Trash – likely.

It’s hard to decide how far is too far, especially because I love gadgets, I really do. And in most ways all of them are unnecessary, but that doesn’t mean I wish they didn’t exist. But picturing a Wall-E future with piles of keyboard bras and portable toilet speakers stacked high as skyscrapers makes me wonder where the line is drawn.

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