Starbucks? There’s an (unnecessary) app for that

Shane Wade

Columnist

In our increasingly digital world with lightning fast technology and instant transactions, Starbucks has unleashed an innovation that’s bound to forever alter the way we purchase items. Instead of a lengthy search through pockets and purses for cash or a thin strip of plastic, Starbucks has blessed us with a new way to pay for our coffee addiction: smartphones.

But isn’t it too easy? A simple flash of a phone pays for your coffee? Doesn’t it just feel wrong? The great irony of our high-tech, social-networking society lies before us. Today, it’s much easier to go days without ever speaking or seeing another human; our interconnecting society has resulted in less actual human interactions. Facebook, Twitter, iPods and smartphones have made us arguably less social creatures: a quick e-mail to a professor to answer a question, a phone call to order a pizza, blasting music through headphones to ignore the people passing out flyers on campus. The advent and popularity of social networking makes Robert Venditti’s comic book series “The Surrogates” look more like a documentary than futuristic science fiction.

After all, the only reason that it’s more convenient to pay for coffee via smartphone is because that phone’s already attached to your ear while you’re standing in line, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.

These advancements also pose a greater problem concerning security where all music players, phones and wallets will soon become one device. While this is not necessarily negative, it makes crime that much easier and lucrative. The theft of a phone full of nothing but embarrassing, incriminating photos and telephone numbers is a mere inconvenience, but the theft of a device that holds a person’s ID, private information, contact info, money and bank information would be devastating. Today’s technology has made stealing easier. Credit card information can be stolen with the swipe of an RFID (radio-frequency identification) scanner by modern-day pickpockets; identity theft is on the rise, and the fear of hackers is ever-present.

Everyday life is fraught with risk. It’s how we evaluate and make judgments about the worth of those risks that shape our actions. When it comes to smartphones, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. At the end of the day, a phone that can surf the web, pay for food, send emails, play music and video files and use a multitude of applications, is really just an expensive, high-tech comfort blanket.

I love touchscreens, smartphones and coffee as much as the next guy, but using a phone as a credit card represents the pinnacle of first-world, non-innovations. You don’t need to pay for coffee with a new smartphone. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

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