Feature creep

Here’s something we all know and dread, now given a pithy name.  I found it in State Farm’s “Goodneighbor” newsletter, which quoted a couple of auto industry experts on trends in auto technology.  One of the experts, Ronald Ahrens, made this remark:  ” ‘Feature creep’ in general increases weight and complexity of vehicles.  As we demand  more features and automatic systems, vehicles gain weight.  More powerful engines are then required, and fuel consumption certainly isn’t diminished.  When an SUV’s electrical wiring harness weighs more than 300o pounds all by itself, something is wrong.”

Or when a clothes washer has more buttons, readouts and status lights than an Apollo 11 Mission Control console – or when you have to review the manual every time you use your automatic coffeemaker.  And every  frivolous feature represents an opportunity for the machine to break.  Something is wrong:  it’s the dreaded feature creep.

The phrase itself probably derives from “mission creep”:  I’ve heard that one in connection with manned space  missions, where it means a project or plan being expanded or extended in ways that may make it harder – or impossible – to do.  Mission sometimes creeps in the workplace too, e.g. when somebody gets more and more different duties piled on without additional resources!

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