Do We Need Drones To Give Consumers Immediacy?

JimDrones fly through fireworks displays, drones are allowed to conduct aerial surveys, drones are used to blow up terrorist, drones might be used as ambulances, drones, drones, drones.

Oh, and of course, drones are going to be delivering our books or our printer cartridges or our ice cream, courtesy of Amazon.com.

Evidently, there have been 190 reported safety incidents between drones and commercial aircraft. There’s only going to be more. If you ask out loud whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing, well… While I am an adopter of technology more than the average person, it is not as much as the techno-enthusiasts who populate our industry.  Bring up drone skepticism to those folks, and you will be branded an antediluvian cave-dweller.

I live in New York City. With the streets crowded with people and cars, and the crush of buildings all around, when I look up at that one tiny rectangle of sky to remind myself what light from the sun is like, I don’t think the shadow cast by a fleet of drones will do wonders for soothing the soul. In particular, those drones summoned and sent by those who’s consumption desires demand to be met NOW.

Will this fleet of drones launched at the behest of the disposably incomed, who simply can’t wait another second for the crap they don’t need but can’t live without, be allowed to fly over Central Park? Co-op roof-top gardens? Will landowners with air rights be able to restrict the drones from their space? Will they be within their rights to shoot them down if that space is trespassed as a manifestation of castle and/or stand-your-ground laws?

I used to always suggest three books to people who said they wanted to get into technology and advertising.

1. Ogilvy on Advertising, because the erudite elucidation of the tricks of human psychology was a great way to learn that the same stuff always works, and always has

2. The ClueTrain Manifesto, because while the tone often comes off as Marin-County-inspired-inter-dimensional-surfer clap-trap, the notion that markets are conversations was a good one to resuscitate, and this book did it early on, before anyone else was talking about it. Modern methods of consumer interaction were returning to a state of… Well, interaction.

3. Frankenstein, because the moral of that story is: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. There are a host of bad ideas that are out there, some came to fruition, some not, some are still with us. New Coke; the McDLT and the McLean; Jet packs, redistricting… Even though the guy who came up with the lobotomy won the Nobel Prize, I think most agree that while it CAN be done, it shouldn’t be.

I’m not saying there won’t be drones or will be drones delivering cat food. The part of me that thinks it would be cool… thinks it would be cool. I just think it’s important to institute a kind of “10th man” rule, or a diablo avocati when it comes to wild-eyed enthusiasms for technology. Too often the American response to technological advancement as been to dive head first into black waters, never bothering to consider their depth or what might be in them.

Vast swaths of the economy have arisen to address the kind of quick-fix, instant oatmeal tantrum that drives the desire to have consumables delivered by drone — I like to call it the Veruca Salt reflex; we have it in politics, too.

But I reiterate: just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You NEED the epinephrine shot to pause the anaphylactic shock; you WANT the printer cartridge to print the picture of your princeling’s first engagement with an ice cream sundae. The happiness quotient of the larger population should be taken into account before it gets lowered to satisfy the impatient imp of a consumer.

Like I said: it’s not about if I think it will be drones or not drones but that we look at a bigger picture and weigh all the consequences before we sign off on yet one more encroachment into what’s left of our natural space only for the sake of getting Teen Age Mutant Ninja Turtles on Blu-Ray.

Jim Meskauskas is a co-founder and Chief Strategic Officer of Media Darwin, a consultancy specializing in strategic planning of commercial communicative action. He’s a medialogist who has spent the last 20 years living, breathing and thinking about how to use media to move people to action. Outside of that, his likes are horror movies, Southeast Asian cuisine, his wife and his cat — not necessarily in that order. His dislikes are mean people, people who text while walking in or out of the subway entrances, pestilence, war, famine and death.