Friday, September 14, 2007

Nonsense, on Wheels

With regard to a recent series of events that had put on stilts, then proceeded directly to the macarena, Bret had this to say:
If too many people in society are unable to exercise reasonable judgement whether because of lack of critical reasoning skills, prohibition by statute on using that judgement, or fear of reprisals for using judgement, then eventually every possible interaction between people will need to be codified into law and civilization will sink and suffocate in the quicksand of legal detail and court proceedings, weighed down by the costs, both to our wallets and souls, of supporting such a legal regime.

Which reminded me of this:
Warning. Use this system only when traffic conditions permit. Safe vehicle operation is the driver's responsibility. For further details, see the owner's manual.

That is the verbage that greets me every time I start my car, with respect to the display used for a whole host of system controls, from tuning the radio to configuring turn signal operation.

Ignoring the wordiness -- traffic is a condition, for Peter's sake -- the statement of the blindingly obvious, and the failure to follow through -- where's the caution telling me to see the owner's manual only when traffic permits? -- we get straight to how this nanny-warning is implemented.

It only goes away after acknowledging the message; all other functions are disabled until you do so.

Including, oddly, the steering wheel button that turns the display off (my default option, and one you'd think I could tell the car to remember ...).

What is most ludicrous though, keeping in mind that the bar is now in nose bleed territory, is that the message remains displayed, no matter how fast I am going, and completely heedless of whether traffic permits my reading it: it puts itself in the position of encouraging me to do that which it supposed to discourage me from doing.

With all due respect to Peter, Shakespeare's advice regarding lawyers seems a better idea than ever.

Hmmm. You don't suppose that if I contrived to crash while reading the message warning me about reading the message while in traffic making reading the message a very stupid thing indeed, I could sue?


Blogger erp said...

Quick. What kind of car do you drive. I don't want to make the mistake of getting one of them.

Want some more nonsense warnings. A new sun guard which goes inside the windshield when parking in a sunny place has a warning cautioning that we don't drive with it in place.

September 14, 2007 8:10 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

I was gonna ask what kind of car it was as well.

This is just more of the continuing infantilization of the populous. The vicious cycle is that the government & legal system tries to make it so we don't have to think and/or bear consequences of not thinking, we lose our ability to think and endure, and the government creeps farther into our lives.


September 14, 2007 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best is to be found in the owners manuals. The simplest appliance comes with a manual as thick as the Oxford dictionary today. I always enjoy the trouble-shooting sections that unfailingly begin:

Problem: Appliance will not start.

Possible Solution: Appliance is not plugged in.

This complaint comes from the man who tells me I have no right to object to offensive television? That I can just turn it off? Didn't you always tell me freedom comes at a price? Well, if I have to suffer the pervs, you can bloody well suffer the dumb-dumbs.

No point in blaming the lawyers, Skipper. Blame the judges and juries, to whom the lawyers are just reacting. That is the great thing about lawyers. For every one who earns too much money writing this kind of nonsense, there is another one eager to take a hefty retainer from you to go to court and fight it.

Besides, isn't the issue for deep-thinking rational Duckians why you find this kind of thing so irritating? You will quickly learn to ignore or shut it off without missing a beat. But what about that intellectually challenged fellow who keeps mistaking his car for his lawn mower? Is there no room for him in the great American tent? No, I've never met him either, but I think he lives beside the family that, through absolutely no fault of their own, can't afford to eat or send their kids to school.

We know our dear erp gets vexed mightily by "Press 2 for Spanish". How rational is that? Take it from a Canadian, you learn to appreciate it after you've spent way too much time listening to consecutive translation everytime you call the phone company. Isn't the rational response to simply ignore it and see it as of no consequence to your life at all?

OTOH, the rational response to "Press 1 for Spanish" might well be to raise a militia.

September 15, 2007 3:12 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Press 2 for Spanish isn't even in the top ten of my vexations. I can certainly live with it, but why should I? Canada was bi-lingual from the first, so you have a very different problem.

English is the language of our land and making it easy for the multi-culti's to Balkanize us is bad for everyone. Almost all immigrants lived in ethnic neighborhoods when they first arrived and somehow managed to get people to help them cope until they learned enough to go solo. Allowing immigrants to live out lifetimes without the need to learn English is only annoying for us, but it excludes them from being fully participating American.

These measures are pandering for votes as are the bilingual classes in public school. Kids can pick up language quickly and there's no reason to delay their entry into the mainstream other than adding more members to the already burgeoning rolls of the teachers unions.

However, if someone doesn't wish to learn English, then the onus is on them to figure out how to manage, it's not our problem.

September 15, 2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger David said...

civilization will sink and suffocate in the quicksand of legal detail and court proceedings, weighed down by the costs, both to our wallets and souls, of supporting such a legal regime

You say that as if it were a bad thing.

But seriously folks...

These warnings are silly and draw the law into ridicule (both of which might be good things) but don't actually have much legal effect, particularly the one that tell you not to use the product as it is clearly intended to be used. (My personal favorite is the warning on Q-Tips not to use them inside the ear. I take the point but, come on.) The other problem is that there doesn't seem to be any vetting of these warnings, which is what makes them over-inclusive and absolutely useless. (My favorite example of this is the now ubiquitous warning not to use your cell phone while pumping gas. It's a silly warning with no practical support at all, but once someone thought of it, it just started bouncing between phone manuals, car manuals and those little signs on the pumps with a life of its own.)

September 15, 2007 8:31 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

'I think he lives beside the family that, through absolutely no fault of their own, can't afford to eat or send their kids to school.'

Yes, you haven't met them, thanks to the New Deal, but my great-aunt Katherine did.

She was a principal in an elementary school during Coolidge/Hoover Prosperity. She used to have to pressure haberdashers on Main St. (where her brother had a haberdashery) to give her clothes so naked children could go to school.

September 15, 2007 10:34 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Tort reform would do a lot to end this nonsense. I once heard of a manufacturer of ladders who was sued because someone placed a ladder with the bottom end in a pile of manure, and the ladder slipped out from under him. The manufacturer hadn't labeled the product to warn the idiot that it is not to be used in a manure pile.

Can't judges just say "you're an idiot" and throw the case out? Is there any constitutional requirement to suffer fools gladly?

Torts are also used by pressure groups to try to ban products they don't like, like guns. Anti-gun groups wanted gun manufacturers to bear the cost of gun crimes, as anti-liquor groups want the brewers to bear the cost of drunk driving. I want to know when the food manufacturers will be sued for providing the sustenance that allowed serial killers to grow to maturity.

Skipper, is this your Beemer?

September 15, 2007 1:34 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hmmm. Interesting that the lawyers among us don't think this nonsense is of much importance. I wonder why?

September 15, 2007 6:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

Peter: In fairness, I fully believe the tales of help centers who get calls asking where the "any" key is.

September 16, 2007 6:03 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...


See Liability by Peter Huber for one attempted explanation of how this state of things came to be.

September 16, 2007 7:42 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Quick. What kind of car do you drive.

Or, not so quick. I've been in China for the last couple days, which effectively cuts me off from everything on blogger.

It is a 2007 BMW, with the much maligned iDrive.

IMHO, for the most part the reputation is not deserved. Modern cars have so many systems, many of them integrated to one extent or another (who knew that an ignition key would ever have anything to say to seats and mirrors?).

So something like an iDrive, along with some amount of effort on the part of the driver, is required to keep the dash from disappearing under a blizzard of switches and knobs.

For the most part, it is pretty well done.

However -- astonishingly -- BMW really missed on some of the simple stuff, like:

-- remembering what I was doing with iDrive when I shut the car off (which means, 90% of the time, I won't get the statement of the glaringly obvious, since I generally leave it off)

-- when going from one mode to another, then returning, it should go to the last function used in that mode, rather than making the user retrace the entire path

-- the sat nav system fails miserably when it comes to things that should be obvious, like a quick way to find the nearest police station, hospital, or gas station. (Also, its nav capabilities got decidedly dodgy the moment we crossed the Canadian border ...)

AOG says designing user interfaces is hard. Having done some of that myself, I agree.

But this kind of stuff is bloody obvious. Makes me figure that when it comes to software engineers, the auto manufacturers are getting the D-team.


No point in blaming the lawyers, Skipper.

You are kidding, right?

The judges are ex-lawyers, and lawyers make a point of excluding anyone with more than a room temperature IQ from juries.

The lawyers write the laws, and are responsible for such things as "deep pockets" nonsense.

Lawyers nearly destroyed the light civil aircraft industry in the US, and strenuously resisted every attempt at even modest tort reform.

They, more than any other group in the West, are responsible for infantilizing the citizenry.

We would benefit greatly from making manufacturers immune from lawsuits stemming from users' blockheaded stupidity.

Which is just the kind of stupidity, and the lack of immunity against which, caused this leapingly idiotic warning.

I'm guessing the D-team is responsible for the implementation.

September 17, 2007 8:08 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Skipper, how do you think the tens of thousands of people attending the summer Olympics in China next summer will react when they can't access their Blogger accounts or use Google or even Yahoo in the ways they were used to doing?

Ya think letting the sun shine in on their shenanigans might be beneficial to all concerned?

iDrive looks like it could benefit from a look see by AOG. Enjoy your new Beamer. They're mighty cute.

September 18, 2007 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trust me, Skipper. It's not the lawyers. It's the Christians.

September 18, 2007 6:40 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

It's the Christian lawyers.

September 18, 2007 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes, Skipper seems to have dedicated his life to getting rid of both lawyers and Christians. He does like to play long odds, doesn't he?

September 18, 2007 12:25 PM  

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