Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shiny Objects, Dull Minds....

I hold two beliefs,  one is that technology  will never stop advancing and the second is that human beings will always gravitate toward shiny objects. 
Crows like shiny objects too.  It's been suggested that they take them to attract a mate.  Hmm, maybe that's why all the geeks feel the need to get a new Smartphone every 6 months. 

I watch a lot of technology podcasts where all the Uber geeks and tech pundits get all misty eyed over the latest bit of techno kitsch.  I t never fails.  They anxiously await the latest whatever and when they get it in their hands they fawn over for about 15 minutes;  playing with every button, adjusting every setting and trying out every new feature.   
Then the facade starts to crack.  It could be a change in how a feature works or even the removal of it entirely.  It doesn't really matter, you can always tell by the look on their face.  It goes from a happy kid on Christmas morning to a blank stare.

The end is always the same.  Unless the thing catches fire in their hands there'll be allowances made.  Phrases like, "They'll fix that in an update" or "This is an early production model" 

We're supposed to dismiss the deficiency and focus instead on the promise of this great new thing even if it's to our own detriment.  

Smartphones are a perfect example.  It's not enough for your phone to make calls anymore.  It has to be able to surf the net, update Facebook and entertain you with a game or a movie.  It's almost as if there's some grand plan to cause the world to develop Attention Deficit Disorder.
 I still find it amazing that people went so nuts over the Iphone when it had so many issues like being chained for two years to a horrible data network, high cost, call quality and usability problems.  Still , even if you had a bad experience with the phone it still managed to check off all the items on our shiny object list.

Like the MP3 that's largely replaced the CD ,we tend tolerate a lesser experience  for greater convenience or just the chance to look cool.   There may be a more insidious penalty than that, however.
Technology can be the catalyst for inspiration but it can also be a debilitating crutch .  In his book "The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains" Nick Carr suggests that we may in fact be gradually becoming dumber because of our addiction to connectivity.

It's not so far-fetched an idea.  We don't even care if a phone can be relied on to make a call anymore so long as our Netflix download doesn't buffer too much.   Oh yes and we must be sure that Foursquare knows where we had lunch.  I'm sorry but nobody has the right to know that much about my habits even if I didn't notice your 30 page irrevocable EULA. 
I guess it's too bad if your favorite sushi restaurant is next door to an S&M shop.  If Google maps can't pinpoint my house accurately I suppose I should forget about any hopes of public office.  There are people who believe the president of the United States  has a fake birth certificate.  What hope do I have if my favorite  sushi restaurant is suspiciously located?
It seems we'd rather not use our long term memory either.  It's simpler to just Google whatever it was that we're too lazy to remember.  Google's a godsend then; protecting us from having to spend more than 30 seconds on any stray thought.

Any forum discussion on the topic invariably degenerates into a shouting match ending in a flurry of hyperlinks supporting their point of view.  That's sad.  We're so addicted to the internet that we can't even have a debate without using it.  Are we so enamored with our connectivity that we're becoming incapable of independent thought? 
If a Pulitzer prize finalist believes it's possible then I have to believe that there has to be some truth to it.   But then, I found out about it on the Internet.

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