To Boldly Go Where Others Think I Want To Go

I'm tired of being second-guessed. It's bad enough that for years my mother did it ("I figured since you like bananas and lemons you'd love a pair of yellow pants."), my teachers did ("Since you worked so hard on the essay I know you want to be the first to read it aloud to the class."), and my bosses did it ("Being a team player I figured you wouldn't mind foregoing your raise so we can increase the dividend to stockholders who do nothing to further the company."), now inanimate objects are getting into the act.

TiVo, the new digital video recorder, is a good example. It's a handy way to record and save more TV shows than you could ever bear to watch, storing up to 60 hours before it fills up, at which time you come home to find last week's episodes of Big Brother 2 in a puddle on the floor since it had to dump something so it could tape those three episodes of Knight Rider you needed to complete your collection.

It's not enough that you can enter a long list of programs to tape, tell it to skip reruns, and ask it to record every show that features your favorite actor, sports team, or cup size, the TiVo also keeps track of what you watch and records shows it thinks you might like. That's right, the TiVo thinks it's smarter than you are. While I'm sure there are people who think this is a convenience, they're probably the same people who think running 26 miles for fun isn't an oxymoron. Face it, if I can't find anything worth watching, what are the chances a box on my TV can?

Internet search engines also like to second guess, which isn't surprising since their sole reason for being is to try to figure out what we're looking for. In their quest to help they not only come back with a list of wildly irrelevant sites I can waste time looking at, they also offer to send me to other sites which -- gasp! -- are designed to separate me from my money. This is what's known as the New Economy. It's just like the old economy except it's falling apart faster.

If you enter "garbage" at AltaVista you'll find links at the bottom of the page offering to help you "Shop the web for garbage", "Find garbage at eBay!", "Search for garbage in your local yellow pages", and "Save on Garbage products at Amazon and other stores." Okay, this might not be a good example because the places they want to send you to have plenty of the item in question, but trust me, it's not always this accurate.

Microsoft loves second guessing me. Each time they put out a new software upgrade it has features which are designed to make it act the way it thinks I'm going to want it to act. And you know what? It's wrong 98 percent of the time. Maybe more. It's a pain. It's annoying. And it has to stop. Is it any wonder one of the first things I do is search the options and preferences to figure out how to turn that crap off? The truth is, if I really wanted the software to modify itself so it would behave the way I want it to behave it would kick in some super-secret option that would make it stop crashing five times a day.

It's presumptuous of these companies to think they know what I want to do. Hell, I don't usually know what I want to do. It would be like walking into a restaurant and instead of the server telling you the specials they say, "Hi, my name is Ashley and I think you should order the veal parmesan." Or better yet, they just walk up and slap some food on the table, figuring they know what you want based on what you ordered the last few times. Hey, if I ordered the fried chicken one time and a steak the other, wouldn't it figure that I'd be in the mood for chicken fried steak tonight?

Prepare yourself for more of this. The next car you buy will probably take over while you drive, making turns and heading for places on its own based on where you've driven in the past. Elevators will stop at the floor they think you want to get off at based on where other elevators around the city have told it you've gotten off in the past. And the airlines will start routing your luggage based on where you've gone in the past, not where you're going today. Sorry, they already do this.

Of course if they take their tips from the search engines they'll all be trying to hijack us -- I mean, steer us -- to businesses that have paid a fee to have us dragged there. Why don't they just save us the aggravation and start taking money right out of our bank accounts, sending us merchandise they think we might want based on what we've purchased in the past? Sure they'd assume that just because I bought a set of fireplace tools one time and a dog collar the next that I'd want a painting of dogs playing poker sent to my door without having to order it, but who wouldn't?

In this wonderful world of the future we won't have to leave the house or waste energy making annoying decisions anymore. It will be heaven. Especially because it will leave us more time to sit around and watch those programs TiVo recorded for us thinking we might be interested. I can't wait.

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