It seems to make that a large fraction of our economy, this economy, is dedicated to replacing cheap and simple solutions with expensive and complicated solutions. While this is so pervasive that it sometimes define our way of life e.g. arranging our living and work spaces so they are separate making us spend an hour a day just moving between them and spending 20% of our working time paying for this, what I had in mind with this post was to consider individual gadgets that makes you go “wow, what a cool idea, I’ll buy that” shortly followed by “wow, what was I thinking when I bought that”.

I think a great example of an economically inefficient product is the segway human transport system. This multi-thousand dollar invention is supposedly intended to replace walking on your feet as a way of transportation. There are cops patrolling on segways in our local mall, presumably to help them catch delinquents. I suppose this works fine until one of the crooks decide to run down some stairs. A close second is probably the treadmill. I think these were originally intended for consumers to get in their car and drive somewhere so they could pay to run(*) instead of doing it for free outdoors. Strangely enough many are willing to pay hundreds or even thousands to replicate this inferior experience at home.

(*) Running on a treadmill is actually not running as much as it is holding your body in place while moving your legs. It is comparably easier than real running.

My favorite example is of course the electric can opener. Now, I realize that these $60 contraptions might be helpful to someone with arthritis, but these are sold everybody suggesting that there is some marketable desire to strap your can into the gripper and press a button. There is even a slightly less complicated manually driven can opener in the $10 range that look like a set of pliers. It is almost impossible to find the simple $1 bent piece of hardened steel. Apparently, only in the army, it’s called the P-38. This is how cans used to be opened.

Now I was going over my stuff mentally to give a personal example of something economically inefficient that I own, but I realized that I have rooted these things out of my life in a process that began almost 10 years now. If I go back before that the things that comes into mind was an electric vegetable and rice steamer which could do in 45 minutes what a $5 sieve could do in 5 minutes over a boiling pot of water.

What is the most economically inefficient gadget you own?