Progress? Feh!

  @FortuneMagazine June 13, 2013: 7:22 AM ET
OUT01 tech progress

Our thesis today is that under certain circumstances the very notion of progress -- bulwark of our economic system, driver of our social behavior -- is flawed. At a certain point, that is, progress does not move us forward; it moves us backward. Let's look at some circumstances in which things have been improved to the point where they now are inferior:

I am standing at a sink in an airport restroom. I am rotating my hands under a faucet that is offering me no water, in the vain hope that the automatic water dispenser will kick on. It does not. There is no manual alternative. Instead, the automatic soap dispenser to its right abruptly wakes up and spits a dollop of gummy liquid ... onto my shirt. I finally move to the one sink that has not been improved by motion-sensor technology, and wash my hands. Then I discover there are no paper towels. There is an automatic hand dryer. I leave the men's room wiping my damp hands on my pants. Progress report: fail.

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