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5 Scientific Advances That Ruined the Working World

June 15, 2011

The Coffee Run

“The Coffee Run” is a weekly satirical column. Any advice presented here will probably ruin your career, break up your marriage and suffocate your goldfish.

By Alex Braun

I’m not a Luddite, but sometimes I long for the days when you could just light a torch, soak your quill in ink and stamp things with red wax – no spreadsheets or conference calls or internal wikis to tend to. Just maybe feeding a mule, which is a minor annoyance.

Alas, that is not the world we live in, thanks in part to these five inventions that have systematically sucked the pleasure and efficiency out your working day and mine.

Fluorescent lights

Fluorescent lights make everything more boring.

Fluorescent lighting

I know they use less power and save businesses money in the long run, but so would an elaborate system of mirrors (which I have always favored). The only other area in which fluorescent fixtures excel is making everyone beneath them look and feel terminally ill.

Have you ever walked into Sam’s Club and thought, “Gross, why do I feel like I’m putting in weekend hours right now, even though I’m purchasing a nice new camcorder and an industrial-sized crate of Funyuns?” This is why.

PowerPoint slidePowerPoint

What did our predecessors do before the invention of the shattering glass transition? I dunno, but it was probably five times more efficient and immeasurably more elegant.

Now we spend more time triggering cheesy animations with our spacebars – “Sorry guys, it didn’t play back this slow in the preview” – than actually comprehending the tasks we’re faced with. If you were going to just read directly from an outline, you could have just sent us the Word doc and saved 40 minutes. Just sayin’.

Fax MachineThe fax machine

I have already railed on how insanely worthless these devices are in a full-length post, but leaving them off the list would be like letting O.J. walk with a citation for driving too slow on the 405. Think of all the things you could have accomplished in the time you’ve spent trying to figure out how to send horribly illegible copies of documents through a phone line. It’s really, really depressing.

The original BLackberry

The Blackberry

If your work follows you home, crawls into your dreams, makes passes at your girlfriend and buys your mom better birthday gifts than you do, you have the Blackberry – and other early mobile devices – to thank. In the 21st century, work doesn’t really care when you clock out. As soon as people find out you have a smartphone, you’ve essentially said, “Yes, I would love to work two more days per week for no additional pay. What’s your BBM PIN?”

The Spyder III Laser

This is a place of business, not a futuristic battlefield.

The laser pen

I guess I can understand that sometimes you need to point to things that are not reachable. And yes, lasers are great attention-getters. Most adult humans will not physically chase them like cats do, but all men between the ages of 0-800 will have that five-second burst of adrenaline where they’re like, “Kick ass, that dude has a laser.”

What makes no sense is that I can go to Staples and buy “business” lasers that are probably bright enough to cut through a bank vault. Unless your trip to Akron next week includes one-on-one time with Darth Vader, this is unnecessary. Remember what Yoda once said about great business presentations: “Your weapons, you will not need them.”

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