Technology is amazing. I’m awed by its power to change our world down to the very questions we ask about the problems we face. If we forget to mail something until the last minute, we simply overnight it. For $40 or $50 we can avert a crisis. But in 1890, depending on the distance, you might have had to plan weeks or months in advance, and there were no tracking numbers. Even 10 years ago one of our favorite phrases when we’re going driving to a new place – “I’ll call you when we get close,” – was impossible for anyone outside of the top 1%.
At the same time, technology is boring. Nearly every advance is predictable. Faster processing, more storage, smaller package. Can you guess how interested I am in the newest version of…well, whatever? And we eat it up. Why were people waiting in line for the 3G iPhone when they had a “regular” iPhone already? Why did I freak out and wait in line 10 hours for my XBox 360 when the only game I’d play for weeks was Halo 2? Why did I let someone convince me to wait overnight at Best Buy for a $400 laptop with no unique qualities? We spend way too much time waiting in line for things that are just the next step on an endless staircase of the same old stuff.
As a web designer I feel a lot of pressure to climb those stairs. Based on what I do people expect me to be waiting in line, to be up to speed, and to be juiced about every new thing. It’s a reasonable expectation, but that’s not me.
I like to focus on technology that works, and that makes a difference in my life. But it seems that most of the technologies we “geek out” on only take up a little more of our time. I thought about getting a Blackberry, but I didn’t think it was worth the cost. Do I really need email and internet everywhere I go?
Those are the questions I ask myself about a new technologies. Will two more megapixels make me a better photographer? Does Twitter add anything to my life? Will Top Gun look any better in 1080p at 120Hz? The answer to all of those questions is, “Not really.”
Technology has the power to improve life, and even fundamentally change it for the better. But it also has an overwhelming ability to distract. In my contribution here I hope to point out technologies that can improve our lives, as well as our witness, without adding needless activity to an already hectic existence.