Making things easier Tech is getting out of hand

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 26, 2016
Updated • Sep 26, 2016

A recent trend in the past couple of years is to make things easier for users, especially when mobile devices are used.

That's not a bad thing when you look at it on first glance; who would not want things to be easier after all. Using improved services or apps may save time, improve workflows, or do away with boring or repetitive tasks.

Tech is however moving in a direction where these improvements may be getting out of hand. A simple example is Google's new Allo messenger.

One of the features of the integrated AI is that it can suggest answers to messages that you receive. If a friend sends you a pic of his or her cat, you may get suggestions like "ah sweet cat" or similar.

So, instead of having to type a reply, you simply tap on one of the suggestions to reply. You may still write your own reply if the suggestions don't match what you want to express though.

Eventually, with improvements in AI, text and image recognition and in other fields, these replies may be automated. Imagine a world where two bots communicate with each other on behalf of actual human beings.

The user takes a photo of a cat, the AI knows that cat pics are sent to some contacts and does so automatically. The bot on the other end recognizes the new cat picture, and replies stating that the picture is particularly good.

Another example. Microsoft filed a patent recently, "QUERY FORMULATION VIA TASK CONTINUUM", which tries to make searches more efficient by providing search engines with information on what the user has been doing in other apps or programs.

Microsoft's solution, at least as described in the patent, is to use an agent that acts as a mediator between programs and search. That agent monitors what the user is doing in apps, and provides those information to search to produce better results.

So, instead of having to write good search queries to find information, users can rely on the agent's monitoring for that. Microsoft made no mention as to what happens when you run unrelated searches in that context.

Then there is Amazon Dash; a product that lets you order products on Amazon with a button press. Amazon Dash buttons are linked to individual products. This means that you can order one product with a Dash button and no others.

The idea behind the product is simple: if you are out of a product or almost out, you press that button to order that product again.

While it makes thing simpler, it is not as if the process of ordering products on Amazon is much harder than that especially if you work on a PC or computing device regularly.

Dash buttons remove control however. Since you link one favorite product to it, you can only order that product from Amazon using the button. If you want a different flavored product or type, you have to go to Amazon to link the button to that product first.

Also, the button does not reveal to you the price of the product, nor provides you with information such as when you ordered the product the last time or if one is one its way.

Another Microsoft example: the company announced recently that it would switch from delivering individual patches to Windows systems to providing cumulative updates instead.

Instead of getting individual patches that you can install or block -- which you may want to do if one of those patches is borked -- you get an all or nothing approach. If one of those patches misbehaves, you cannot just uninstall it and keep every other patch installed. That's highly problematic especially for security patches.

Closing Words

Tech that makes things easier is not a bad thing, but it seems to get out of hand more often in recent time. Usually, it goes hand in hand with losing privacy or control in the process.

You could argue that you don't have to use these things. While true for many, it is not true for all. There is little that you can do about Microsoft's new cumulative patch approach for instance.

Now You: What's your take on this?

Making things easier Tech is getting out of hand
Article Name
Making things easier Tech is getting out of hand
The article discusses a recent trend in computing that tries to make things easier for the user, and here especially that it is getting out of hand.
Ghacks Technology News

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Mark D. Miller said on September 27, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    I believe one of the wonderful fundamental’s of computing is the discovery and comprehension of software and hardware. Without this, I wouldn’t be interested in computing. I would write letter’s and make traditional phone call’s. Maybe even use a hand-held calculator. Mark M.

    1. Tom Hawack said on September 27, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Such a name, Mark, could predispose to writing ;)

  2. drthdh said on September 26, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Some bare-naked facts:

    “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” is a phrase coined by the NSA, their own motto. Big-Data is harvesting the customer’s habits.

    Next generation will be bound to devices that let know the location, with required login to google and brainwashing included with youtube.

    Kids will be fed with desires, fears and expectations more than mass-market movies.
    The influence will be pervasive and faster than ever.

    Last tip: “conspiracy theory” is a CIA buzzword, while this post offers some examples of… conspiracy practices.

  3. Graham said on September 26, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Did I read that right? “Improved reliability for Internet Explorer 11”? For Windows 10?

  4. Jason said on September 26, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Besides the problem of over-simplification of technology, we could also talk about the problem of “having technology for technology’s sake”. Under the constant pressure of corporate marketing campaigns, we are increasingly complicating our lives with gadgets and protocols that create more problems than they solve.

    An example?

    Someone in my family is looking for a new car in the entry-luxury range. Of course this means the car be loaded with tech, including a big, flashy, distracting display in the centre console. Cars like this will no longer let you perform most functions by tactile sense, because they do not have dedicated buttons anymore. Instead you have to take your eyes off the road to stare at the screen and navigate through an endless series of nested menus and submenus until you reach the function you want. (Good thing the car also has a forward-looking radar to avoid collisions, because somehow I think this will come in very handy…..!)

    Is this progress? Why do people pay money for this garbage? In my rather beautiful 9-year old Golf, I have most of the features I want, and most importantly I can adjust all of them virtually instantly without taking my eyes off the road.

  5. Oxa said on September 26, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    I find these automated processes to be almost uniformly bad in trying to guess what I’m trying to do. 99 times out of 100 search engines get it wrong and I have to then go through some convoluted search to try to get what I want. That’s not making things “easier”.

  6. meepmeep said on September 26, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    @ T J

    That’s where the driverless car comes in. Sorry, I couldn’t help the humour.
    But idiocy and technology don’t necessarily go together. I’m sure you’ve seen the guy driving to work with
    the steering wheel firmly between his knees with a coffee in his left hand and an electric shaver in his right.

    1. T J said on September 26, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      @ meepmeep

      Don’t forget the hands free Bluetooth mobile transceiver stuck in his idiot ear frying his brains. Perhaps that’s why he is oblivious to his surroundings. :)

  7. Anonymous said on September 26, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Nike’s Back to the Future Self-Lacing Shoe, the HyperAdapt 1.0, Is Finally Here

    LuDela – The World’s First Real Flame Smart Candle

    Masses are getting empowered with technology. Isn’t that is so great.

    1. Gary D said on September 26, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      @ Anonymous

      After reading/watching your links, I double checked that the dates on them were not April 1st. (April Fools day in UK) :)
      Did you read the comments on the Nike site ? Hilarious !

  8. Yoav said on September 26, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    This must be the best time ever to be a clueless imbecile, so it’s not all bad :)

  9. meepmeep said on September 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    As a person whose world view was shaped before the information technology explosion of recent years, I see
    dangers as well as benefits in all this new gadgetry. The danger being that not only assisting us, the new tech is
    also possibly enslaving us. When I see people walking down the street with their concentration totally on their
    communication device, oblivious to the world around them, they remind me more of drug addicts than anything else.

    1. T J said on September 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      @ meepmeep

      Never mind the idiots walking around the streets.
      The device users who REALLY p*ss me off are the cretins who insist, despite it being an offence, on using mobile phones when they are driving, The reason for this behaviour is because, here in the UK, the fine is £ 80 with 3 penalty points on the driving licence, which is to most people peanuts.
      ANYONE caught driving and phoning should be banned from driving for six months and made to take the driving test again. Uusing a mobile at the wheel has been shown to reduce driving ability to around 30 % of the norm.
      The reason why I feel so strongly about this is because eight cyclists have been killed by drivers using mobiles in the last six months here.
      My post is a bit off topic but relevant I think.

      1. Jason said on September 26, 2016 at 8:22 pm

        High fines don’t necessarily work. Where I live, the police can already fine you nearly $500 and give you 3 demerit points. I judge can then increase the fine to as much as $1000. Well guess what? Whenever I’m stopped at traffic lights, I look around me at other drivers, and I swear that half of them have their heads pointed down toward their laps. Either something I don’t want to know about is taking place on those laps, or else they’re texting.

        If you want to stop this scourge, it’s going to take more than big fines. The smartphone has become an addiction, and people need to break the habit.

      2. Don said on September 26, 2016 at 7:43 pm

        I don’t understand the lunacy of risking this obvious distracted driving! It’s bad enough being extremely inconsiderate to their neighbors; but it so often leads death and injury for everyone!

        I see it all the time. I feel so helpless to do anything about it.

      3. Tom Hawack said on September 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm

        I agree as well considering life is more important than one’s liberty. This is another example illustrating the limits of freedom, and unfortunately law enforcement has to be applied when/because some of us just don’t handle our freedom the right way. Looks like humanity still has a long way to discover it’s own, true freedom. I’m not at all a law freak (I remember bars in El Paso, Texas with a panel stating the age limit followed by a “Let us respect the law”) but the behavior (“behaviour” in proper English?!) of some of us is here to remind that our civilizations just couldn’t make it without law enforcement. “I want it”, “I want it now”, “Do it”, “Just do it” are slogans which are sometimes wrongly interpreted (when the implicit condition “to the extend of respect for your neighbor” would require to be explicit) and contribute to the rise of rules, regulations and laws, to the point that many start stroking… but what else to do when irresponsibility is active? And it’s not assisted technology aiming to think for me which is going to solve the problem, I believe it will only increase it …

      4. warrant said on September 26, 2016 at 5:00 pm

        Agreed. It’s time to come down hard on these people who put their and other lifes at risk. Hit them where it hurts. Fines and goodbye to the drivers license. This sounds harsh but I myself had several of these selfcentered idiots endanger my and my childrens life. Running a red ligt, taking the right away, almost crashing in my trunk. Do they get it ? No. They actually have to get it really good.

  10. Control said on September 26, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    It is all about control. The goal is to take away as much control as possible from the user’s life and make it appealing to him/her by telling: it’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s simple, and so on.

    Government and companies would like to create a numb, will-less selfcentered something which consumes everything they throw at it without questioning. As long as the big screen TV is blaring, the kids hanging on their whatever-pods and the entire failure of parentship can be delegated to the schools then their world is fine. If a prob pops up, well there is a button to push. Again, it is about taking away control from one to control the same one. That’s were we are heading.

    And the lemmings are following with pleasure.

    1. MdN said on September 26, 2016 at 7:10 pm

      On one side there is: “Oh, this is easy, so I can do things faster and then concentrate on something more important”. On the other side there is “Oh, this is easy, I’m going to be doing it all day”. And on yet another side “Oh, this is easy, am I the product?” I guess it’s all about making the possibilities work for you instead of against you, and be careful not to confuse the two.

      1. Tom Hawack said on September 26, 2016 at 7:34 pm

        Our relationship to the world and to its innovations is often at least influenced when not determined by our own lives. Having a background, not necessarily of money but at least of education, that education you’re grown up with or not, those who have points of comparison, who have a life besides technology are perhaps more likely to observe in perspective the new technologies and the implied social behaviors. But kids who start life with technological tools and social values with no point of comparison may take the world as an animal considers as his mom whatever, whoever feeds it. I’m not far from thinking that the best of technology will be used as a tool by the most lucky ones and as an addiction by the others ; in other words we may be facing an increasing social disparity. And I’m not comparing Wall Street to the Bronx but a good education to no education at all.

  11. Peter said on September 26, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    at least the AI fully understands me ..

    1. Tom Hawack said on September 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm

      Enemies’ perfidy may give the feeling they understand us and friends’ commitment that they haven’t understood anything to who we are and what we want. The tobacco industry understands me perfectly well, does my doctor when he tells me to stop smoking?

  12. Tom Hawack said on September 26, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Now this is *A* debate, the debate of automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and us, humans.

    At this time and to make the story short (for once!) I could resume my take on tech assistance by enthusiasm when it comes to AI involved in sophisticated calculus, but very cautious when this AI intends to assist my choices, and ferociously opposed to whatever assistance when a human dialog is concerned.

    We already very often call upon automatism in our everyday speech, replies and if a “Sincerely yours” is acceptable on a letter it remains nevertheless a sad protocol to address a word, a thought to someone with an automatism : every word should be thought IMO, which leads to thought feelings, thought likes and dislikes… in a word to responsibility : automation and IE when applied as assistants for freeing humans of part of their thinking participate to a los of the sens of responsibility.

    Need to say that here, as an end-user of a technological device, I wish not, to put it mildly, be assisted in whatever choice. I don’t want Web search engines to consider my navigation history and my computer caches to determine what they assume to most correspond to my expectations, I want to discover, I want to realize my paradoxes, i want to be imperfect , I want to THINK.

    I shall not, never abandon myself to the comfort of being assisted in my very thoughts. Long live AI for super-computers, hyper sophisticated algorithms, simulations and calculus as a whole, but not for driving my life.

    And that was short. The theme is so important a simple preamble would require pages!

  13. zund said on September 26, 2016 at 11:27 am

    but…but… it’s got electrolytes!!

    1. Brent R Jones said on September 27, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      exactly put salt water on plants. kills them. Brondo, like Frodo, LIVES!

  14. Yuliya said on September 26, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Ah, the trend of oversimplifying everything. We can all ‘thank’ to people who brought us the one button phone. Because having more than that would confuse the user. And if I send someone a picture and all they can be bothered with is an automated reply, I’ll never send that person a picture again. Better not reply at all, at least you could get away with ‘i didn’t receive any message’

    Hmm, I wonder how ‘wsus offline updater’ is going to work. I tried downloading all the updates for 7 with it and everything went really fast, ten minutes at most for both 64 and 32 bit versions. I already disabled auto updates on my pc.

  15. Dresandreal Sprinklehorn said on September 26, 2016 at 8:03 am

    I doubt the cumulative patch will last long. When people’s devices get bricked they will be all over Microsoft’s back to go back to the old method.

  16. Jeff said on September 26, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Any technology that crosses the “creepy” line and leaves me without full manual control over it is not for me.

    1. Chris said on September 27, 2016 at 10:02 am


Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.