If you look at this gif of a drone replacing a lightbulb, you'll understand what concept I'm trying to find a word for. Using dynamite for fishing would be another example.

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I'm looking for a word that describes the use of high-tech equipment, for a purpose that is normally filled by low-tech equipment, usually done out of laziness or amusement.

This is specifically relating to technology (overengineering is very close).

  • 7
    I call it progress. Can it replace a candle?
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 17:04
  • 1
    I have two lights in my house I am now going to use this for. WAY easier then dragging out the "super ladder"
    – coteyr
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 20:26
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    Actually, the video example you give is a brilliant solution to changing electrical illumination sources which are hard to reach without tall ladders, scaffolding or long extension poles. It is NOT an appropriate example for your question, unfortunately. Having a drone fly over to a light switch would be a better example.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 20:46
  • 3
    @IconDaemon It's a dead-normal lightbulb in the middle of a dead-normal room, at normal, easy to reach, ceiling height (notice the bookcase), so I'm gonna call BS on that and reclaim my example as an appropriate example. That being said, yeah, mate, I agree drones might be useful in other scenarios, but not the one in the gif. Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 20:50
  • 3
    I agree with @IconDaemon – even if this is a "dead-normal" room, the video might just be demonstrating a capability.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 2:08

5 Answers 5


"Bringing a gun to a knife fight" or "Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" or "Killing a mosquito with a bazooka" are idioms that convey the sense of overkill, but perhaps not the overly-complex nature of the technology.

"If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" is another close-but-maybe-not-quite-right idiom.

It might also be a "Rube Goldberg solution" or a "Heath Robinson" way of getting something done, or the solution might simply "overengineered".

Sources and related questions that might give you some ideas:

  • Another common variant: using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 23:28
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    You should totally bring a gun to a knife fight, because that means the other guy has brought a knife to a gun fight.
    – Wossname
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 23:44
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    @Wossname I like your thinking... you sound like a "change a lightbulb with a quadcopter" kind of guy! Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 23:48

How about overkill?

From M-W:

overkill: an excess of something (as a quantity or an action) beyond what is required or suitable for a particular purpose

You could certainly consider using a drone to replace a lightbulb or dynamite for fishing to be cases of overkill (literally in the latter case).

Overkill also conjures the idiom opening a peanut with a sledgehammer.

  • Ahem, I think I proposed overkill first. And I managed to include a definition. Maybe my problem is that I didn't use a red font. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 0:31
  • @aparente001 You're right. I'm sorry. I didn't notice the overkill part of your answer. I stopped with frivolous and unnecessary collateral damage. The problem with your answer (if there was one) was that you didn't lead with overkill. With regard to the "red font", as you know, all that means is that you didn't include a link, but you did include a definition and a source. I will delete my answer, along with these comments, if you'd like. These things do happen. Thanks. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 1:55
  • Agreed, this answer is much clearer and the nice formatting leads your eyes straight to the anewer. It's even better than the selected answer. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 16:32
  • @BogdanAlexandru The selected answer was more correct, that's why I chose it, that is my prerogative. It talks about overkill and explains how it's close but not quite, then goes on to explain the other facet of what I'm looking for, the technological aspect, to conclude with overengineered as part of the equation. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 23:41

One possible term is Overengineering.

Overengineering (or over-engineering) is the designing of a product to be more robust or complicated than is necessary for its application....In one form, products are overbuilt, and have performance far in excess of needs (a family sedan that can drive at 300 km/h, or a home video cassette recorder with a projected lifespan of 100 years)....Alternatively, they may be overcomplicated – the design may be far more complicated than is necessary for its use, such as a modern text editor asking whether files should be saved in ASCII, EBCDIC or various multi-byte formats....

Source: Wikipedia.

Using a drone to replace a light bulb is certainly "far more complicated than is necessary", and a drone that is purchased for the purpose of being a light bulb changer would be especially well described by that phrase.

Kerievsky (2002), speaking specifically about software engineering but in a way applicable to robotics, writes that overengineering happens when one engineers "in anticipation of needs that never materialize".

Source: Joshua Kerievsky, April 01, 2002, Stop Over-Engineering!, Dr. Dobb's Journal.

A drone-based light bulb changing system could be envisioned as becoming practically useful later if a need arises to change light bulbs located in inconventiently high or inaccessible locations (such as the roof of a stadium, or on the outside of a very tall flagpole), but the majority of people do not encounter such situations frequently, if at all.


The drone replacing the lightbulb is a frivolous use of drone technology.

The use of explosives in fishing produces unnecessary collateral damage.

In both of these situations, you could say they are


  1. An excess of what is necessary or appropriate for a particular end (American Heritage)
  • +1 for suggesting overkill by 52 mins sooner than ...
    – haha
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 21:22

Great question, with several great answers so far. There are several nuances:

  • overkill, overengineering, overdesigning or "shooting a fly with a shotgun", also @NickWeinberg's suggestions
  • "geeky", if the actual intention was to find or demonstrate a geeky way to solve an everyday problem (or non-problem), such as IP-enabled coffee machines
  • Rube Goldberg machine, if the original intention was actually to be comical.
  • "kludge"/"design kludge"/"workaround"/"retrofit", if the result was inadvertent, and on a serious project. Example: an anecdote told to me by some British engineers about a defense project: an expensive automated artillery piece (no human operators) was designed according to spec, except they forgot one thing: how to remove the spent shell casings, so the design was going to be an expensive failure. So they hastily specced and designed an expensive robot arm to reach in and remove them (whereas if they'd designed it in upfront, there are simpler and cheaper ways to mechanically eject them). The Space Shuttle project also had several examples of retrofits.

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