Monthly Archives: September 2011

Point of Saturation

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” –Douglas Adams

I believe that I have reached a critical point of saturation with technology. Am I tired of it? A little, maybe. Do I wish it all away? Of course not. I love my computers just as much as the next guy, maybe more. I’m just at a point where I believe technology has caught up with all reasonable expectations and we can do whatever we want with it. Anything else at this juncture is just quibbles over details and “hey, look at me and my expensive toy” features.

The problem with current technology, especially in the realm of consumer electronics, is that the average consumer with vast amounts of expendable income have two things detrimental to healthy technological progression: too high expectations and too little understanding.

A few days ago, I went to BestBuy and claimed an upgrade for my cell phone. As my plan dictates, I could choose among several “free” upgrades (meaning only a minimal activation fee), most of which included high-end smartphones. For years, I wanted a smartphone like the iPhone, an Android enabled HTC, or something fancier like that. Sure the data plan would’ve cost a little more, sure I would’ve had to be more protective of it, but wow, if those weren’t the coolest devices ever made. Imagine, a computer that could deliver movies, books, games, internet, and any kind of productivity software I could ever want, all in the palm of my hand whenever I wanted. Finally, my old phone broke down and the fateful day arrived.

I ended up with a simpler Nokia flip phone. A “dumb phone”, as some people like to call it.

Price was not an issue, obviously. I made my decision based on my own cell phone use, rather than a vast feature list. I rarely ever speak on them, usually resorting to texting. QWERTY keypads are far too small for my fat thumbs and capacitive touchscreens, though accurate, are far too touchy to provide tactile, mistake-proof typing. I don’t watch movies or television much (if at all), but I listen to music constantly. Even still, I didn’t need full access to iTunes and internet radio, because I already had a vast collection of music. Finally, I don’t need the internet as much as other people. I carry around flash drives when I’m out of the house like explorers carry canteens in the desert, ready at a moment’s notice to download anything I need to sustain myself. If our house had no cable access whatsoever, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

Also, a smartphone is just one big touchscreen. I put phones in my pocket. Stuff rolls around in my pocket. A lot. Face it, that phone’s gonna die.

“But Stephen,” I can hear you say. “You just cheated yourself out of so many cool features!” Why? All I specifically wanted was a device that could make calls, send and receive texts, play music without expensive accessories, and expand its memory and data via removable SD cards. As a plus, I figured out how to read books loaded from my computer. I got exactly what I wanted for “free” and all without an extra data plan and accessories. If I chose a smartphone, I would have spent weeks getting it used to my habits and idiosyncrasies while making an extreme effort to be happy with my purchase. Instead, I bought a device that feels as if it were made just for me. But to hear the sales rep speak, making do with modern technology is what I should have just done in the first place.

High expectations of what technology is supposed to be plays a lot into this mentality. This is why we buy new computers every year and jump on the movie format bandwagon whenever higher numbers are added to the playback resolution. It blows people’s minds when I tell them that I have a twelve-year-old computer that can do virtually everything modern computers running Windows 7 can. After all, extra functionality comes from constantly buying new stuff. But what most people mean by “extra functionality” is “looks prettier”. And the prettier it looks, the more stuff it can do, right?

Video gamers know this argument very well. The Nintendo 3DS is a handheld game system that looks pretty but is faltering because of a small game library.

This is where little understanding enters the fray. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” says God in the book of Hosea, and my people are ripped off by salesmen for lack of technological savviness. There is such a thing as “planned obsolescence”, and technology corporations have made it clear that this is their primary goal. We all know this, speak this, and even make fun of it, yet we buy into this viscious cycle year after year. Every year we complain more and more about how convoluted and confusing technology is, yet places that don’t have clean running water can still have laptop computers.

These aren’t natural progressions of technology anymore. We have become, as I see it, slaves to technology. Technology hasn’t put us here, we have. Now, I’m not saying that technology is a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. What I AM saying is that man was not created to serve technology. Technology was created to serve us. Technology isn’t complicated. People make it complicated. You don’t have to have a six year degree in computer science and engineering to wrap your head around it, just a new mentality and a grain of wisdom.

Whenever I easily repair someone’s computer or set someone up with a new system that works for them, they say, “Wow, you have a real talent for technology.” Not really. I’ve just learned how to take control of it instead of letting it take control of me.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized