Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I love the constant amazement every time something new comes down the pike that does something I never dreamed was necessary (steering wheel warmer anyone). But, technology was supposed to make our lives easier and for a while it did. Now I question that, as devices become capable to do more and more. Shouldn’t there be a limit? I think there comes a point where ease of use ends up second fiddle to how much something can do.
For instance, I’m a gamer. I remember the days of the old Atari 2600 and have played pretty much every generation up to today. Nowadays I have to turn my console on, wait a bit, login to the console, wait for it to connect to the “cloud”, finally get to the main screen where I can then choose to play my game. Almost a 5 minute process, just to play a game. I so remember with fondness the days when you could just pop in a game and play in seconds. Gone are the days when you put a cartridge in the old 2600, turned the power on…..turned the power off, removed the cartridge, blow on the cartridge, replace cartridge in console, turn power back on and then start playing. Even with the blowing, the process was maybe a minute or two before you got to actual game play. But, now consoles are practical home entertainment systems allowing you to connect to the internet, watch movies, chat and who all knows what else. Why can’t I just get a console that does one thing?
I now dread the day when I have to get a new TV. Even those wonderful devices are getting the upgrade of features to point that operating them requires an advanced degree in astrophysics. You’ve got TVs that can connect to the web for streaming services, some can connect to your social media stuff, and I don’t even want to think about the one you can operate by hand movements. What happened to just sitting and watching the TV or DVDs (Blu-rays too).
I understand features, but adding features for the sake of adding them seems ridiculous to me. I have a cell phone that I end up spending more time texting, emailing, taking pictures or video from than actually using it for a phone. Granted it’s nice having those features from time to time, but I lived just fine without them before.
We seem to be headed to a point where one or two devices are going to be all we need to do anything we want and I don’t think that’s an overly good thing. Devices, like we have today and who knows what the future brings, with all these multi-functions means we split our attention between those functions. You’re answering an email and then you get a text mid reply, you stop your email to answer the text, then go back to your email where it takes a few seconds to pick up where you left off. I realize people do it everyday, I do it, but is it a good thing that we can? I don’t know.
We place such a premium on the ability to multi-task by doing several things at once decently, rather than focusing on one thing and doing it perfectly. I think to some degree we are losing something by gaining this ability to do hundreds of things at once. Maybe we need to slow down on the progress just a smidge. Who knows what might happen if instead of juggling 100 things, we only are juggling 99. I’d be willing to bet those 99 things get done a bit better.
Originally published May 28, 2013