L.A. ripe with examples of stupid technology

I hate L.A. OK, so maybe that’s not fair ’cause I haven’t seen the vast majority of the place, and like any generalization, it paints the city with a broad brush that isn’t fair to (most) of its people and most of its territory.

No, I can’t possibly feel this strongly about a place I’ve visited less than a dozen times, and never for more than a few days at a time. That being said, I hate L.A.

Venice Beach is as tacky as is physically possible, LAX is a madhouse, and the gazillions of vehicles in town cause a haze of unpleasant stuff to hang over the city each time I’m there.

But that’s not what this column is about. It’s about over-the-top, stupid, and regressive uses of technology. And it just so happens that I saw this kind of thing live and in person last time I was in the City of Angels.

By way of defining regressive, I point to the ever-present fax machine. Really a stupid idea when you think about it – taking a hardcopy (most often from a computer file), and then turning it’s image into a series of signals that are decoded by a fax on the other end, and printed out on another hardcopy, that is in turn too often then keyed back into another computer file.

So my grasp of fax technology is not the greatest, and there were/are legitimate occasions when you had/have to send and receive images (e.g. signatures) that were/are non-digital, and to be fair, we didn’t have e-mail or Adobe Acrobat when fax machines first arrived.

But still a retrograde technology in the big picture of things, for the reasons outlined above.

Back to L.A. – land of the stupid use of technology. Having recently had six or seven hours to kill on a Saturday between a flight into and out of L.A. I rented a car and headed out to see a couple of places I hadn’t seen before.

Beverly Hills. And since I needed lunch, I thought I’d grab a bite in the heart of it – i.e. the Beverly Hills Hotel.

I knew this was a bad idea the minute I stepped into the very pink lobby. In case you didn’t know, the whole damn place is pink, stern to gudgeon. Gives one the impression of walking around inside a huge bottle of Pepto Bismol.

Overpriced and haughty I expected, but again, that’s not what this column is about.

In the overpriced and haughty restaurant, I ordered a rather humble meatloaf (entertainment provided by a woman playing Memories on a grand piano – if that’s not enough to make you lose your appetite…), and got a good look at the stupid use of technology.

Stupid use of technology exhibit 1: From the booth I was sitting at, I could see three people, two men and a woman, at a table no more than 50 feet away from me, ostensibly having lunch together.

Or not together, I guess, for even as they sat knee-to-knee for 45 minutes noshing down on some food I swear I didn’t recognize, they never said a word to each other.

They were, however (you guessed it) each talking to other people on their cell phones from the moment I arrived (at same time their lunch did) through the presentment of their bill and their departure. I never saw them exchange a word with each other, much preferring the ghostly presence of whoever was on the other end of each of their cell phones to the flesh and blood non-digitized voices of their lunch companions.

In a surreal twist of my imagination, I saw them all talking to another set of three sitting together at some other restaurant across town….

Stupid use of technology exhibit 2: Granted, BlackBerry devices are a cool technology from what is by all appearances a cool company, but I hope they lose some of their cachet soon. Like any other intrusive new technology, they further blur the line between urgent and important.

I saw two guys right across from me talking about “scripting” something or another as they ate – talking, sort of. I swear they must have missed half of what they said to each other, because they kept digging into their pockets to extract their cool little machines, and check out the latest important e-mail that these gizmos made them aware of.

Maybe its just me, but it’s rare that I get an e-mail message that’s more important at the very moment it’s sent than the person I’m sitting across from, a person I’ve taken the trouble to set up and attend a meeting with – lunch or otherwise.

I swear these guys each looked at their little boxes a dozen times while they ate and talked, switching away from the live conversation to whatever e-mail message happened to be coming in at the time.

Maybe they were both getting updates on an impending birth or a real stock market mover. But I doubt it.

Two examples of the stupid misuse of technology – if they’re typical examples of the advancement that our industry allows, you can keep it.

By the way, did I tell you that I hate L.A.?

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at isguerrilla@hotmail.com.