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The modern technology with the worst signal-to-noise ratio is …

…the car alarm.

When one goes off, the community’s reaction is not “Catch the thief!” but “Find the car owner so s/he can turn off the @[email protected]#ing car alarm.” At least in the communities I’ve lived in. (Note: I am a privileged white man.)

The signal-to-noise ratio sucks for car alarms in every direction. First, it is a signal to the car owner that is blasted to an entire neighborhood that’s trying to do something else. Second, it’s almost always a false alarm. (See note above.) Third, because it’s almost always a false alarm, it’s an astoundingly ineffective true alarm. The signal becomes noise.

Is there any modern technology with a worse signal-to-noise ratio?

6 Responses to “The modern technology with the worst signal-to-noise ratio is …”

  1. The ‘traditional’ media company. The material is often static, non interactive, one directional stuff with limited relevance to any one person. I’m looking at a news paper. 95% is noise to me.

  2. Unless you’re black. Have a listen to the Daily Show w/out Jon Stewart podcast where Travon Free where the cops show up because the alarm went off on his car while he’s in it.

  3. Peter, in my experience far fewer than 1 in 20 car alarms are actually due to a break and far fewer have any effect.

    But note (as I mentioned, Karl), I’m a privileged white man.

  4. It would be hard to have a *worse* ratio – certainly in my experience the signal is either zero, or presumed to be…

    Distressingly, though, Things That Go Beep in hospitals have a pretty bad signal-to-noise ratio as well. Certainly when my kid was in the hospital there were a great many Things That Went Beep and very few codes. Her Thing That Went Beep usually meant “the oxygen mask slipped off her face because it didn’t really fit and she moved around, as kids do” or “we disconnected the thing so she could get out of bed to pee”, neither of which actually required medical intervention, and both of which went beep.

    I know this is a known problem. I don’t know how doctors and nurses actually sort the signal from the noise. Yet it’s literally a matter of life or death.

  5. In Israel there is a law against installing them. Problem (almost) solved.

  6. Lobbying. Like that done by Berkman for its corporate clients such as Google.

    The lobbying for harmful, innovation-strangling regulation of the Internet has flooded the docket at the FCC with 3.7 million comments, more than 3.69 million of them ill-informed or completely worthless.

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