We live in a time of rapid technological invention.

We consider ourselves an advanced culture, I mean we can map the fucking human genome. And we have the Internet, and Velcro, and Buckyballs.

And yet, more than once a day every one of us uses this random bit of aging victorian technology.

The Toilet is basically the same as it was in 1850. There have been small improvements, water pressure, heated seats, bidet-with-blow-dry, built-in nature sounds and lotion impregnated toilet paper. But these are all peripheral, why has there been no apparent research in new ways of handling bodly wastes. There must be a better way. You'd think that something so frequently used would have been improved upon dramaticaly in the last century and a half.
There's an excellent rant about this in one of Spider Robinson's books, Time Travelers Strictly Cash. In it, Mickey Finn, a large alien advance scout with cyborg superbod is expounding on what he's found most peculiar about Earth and human culture in general, and his answer is...bathrooms.

On the subject of the commode, he wonders aloud why on Earth an action as necessary and as pleasurable or relaxing as voiding waste should be relegated to the equivalent of a penal torture chair (pun mine, men)? Why not use technology for ergonomic seating (ergonomic for voiding, mind you) and gentle automatic cleansing, and in fact televisions or libraries available to the user (although that's achievable today).

He goes on to mention sink faucets, showers, and medicine cabinets ("...it is impossible to avoid spilling the entire contents in order to access the aspirins, especially when hung over") as further examples of humanity's decided technocultural stagnation.

To look for toilet advancments you must turn to the Japanese.

  They not only have seat warmers, automatic flushing mechanisms, automatic seat raisers and closers (one button for men and one for women), noisemakers to cover any unpleasant sounds you might make, they also have automatic scenting machines that in some places detect your foul smells and raise the level of deoderant in the air accordingly.

  These toilets also often use a jet of water and a blowdryer to replace toilet paper when it comes time to leave the comforts of the bowl, similar to a bidet system.

  To control all of these functions, the toilet has a control panel next to it, and possibly even a remote control.

  So as you can see, if you want toilet luxuries, Japan is the place to go.

  However, if you want efficiency I guess the Fremen Stillsuit from the Frank Herbert Dune series would be the ultimate achievement... if you could get used to the idea that you were drinking your own sweat, urine, and feces. On the other hand I think I'll stick with my good old American Standard (US) or Armitage Shanks (UK).

BTW: Think the Japanese bathroom fixation is weird? American Standards slogan is "Bathrooms made for the soul"


  • The Washington Post, Thursday, May 15 1997 But Do They Flush? Japan's High-Tech Toilets Do Nearly Everything, Even Redden Faces http://www.theplumber.com/japan.html
  • http://www.armitage-shanks.co.uk/
  • http://www.us.amstd.com/scripts/

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