Seussian technology

What does this add up to? 

Well, it is equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission, 16-way front electronic seat adjustments, as well as four-way massagers, and a 700-page owner’s manual to explain all such features, in this, the 2007 Mercedes S-Class car. 

In his review of the vehicle, published in the May 28th New York Times, Jeff Sabatini subtitles his assessment as “Leave the Driving to the Microchips.” He derides many of these new technological improvements as “gee-whiz” features that have little to do with driving.

Sabatini concludes boldly that the “scientific community” holds to a belief that “solutions to problems caused by technology can always be found in applying in applying more, newer technology.” Both the film “Inspector Gadget” and Dr. Seuss’s famous tale, “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” sort of agree with Sabatini but with high humor and no trace of any Mercedes in sight.

Gadgetry and utility have had a long relationship in the modern world, obviously extending back to the 18th century when clocks measuring time with considerable accuracy moved hand-in-hand with mechanical automatons that were designed for amusement only. Today, in a consumer society driven forward by the condition of “neophilia,” (the love of new things), fast food menus, like automobile headlamps (aka headlights), frequently change to induce new sales.

The inside of the new Mercedes simply leads the other brands with “gee whiz”gadgetry, one reason the front seat of all luxury models is often described as the “cockpit,” of the car to delude the owner—or potential buyer—into believing that he or she electronically commands some small part of the universe.  Moreover, there is always the owner’s manual for reference—except when the vehicle is in motion.    

Ray Betts