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The Problem With Technology

Talking iPhone

Smartphones. Our true masters.

I don’t know when it happened but at some point I joined the wretched Cult of Apple. A few years ago I got my first iPhone, last year I got an iMac and then recently I picked up an iPad and 4s. And I now find myself suffering from overwhelming self-loathing and gut-wrenching guilt every time Apple announce a new product. It’s just not right.

Technology will do that to you, though, especially Apple’s. Their products are the epitome of design, a beautiful melding of function and aesthetic, practicality and art seamlessly intertwined. More than that though, they represent extreme quality and usability, affordable (barely) luxury that promises to enhance your life, all from a brand that has managed to capture our imagination and, as the evil magician Steve Jobs once famously said, sell us dreams instead of products.

It’s sickening really.

The problem with technology now is that it’s surpassing the realms of functionality and instead entering the world of collectibles, fashion and art. We’re becoming emotionally attached to our products, feeling constant pangs of devotion and desire accompanied by insatiable urges to own and operate them. Apple, Samsung, Sony, it doesn’t matter your poison, they have all created brand personas and end products that spur us into horrendous consumerist cycles. It’s as if we’ve become slaves to technological products instead of the masters of them.

To paraphrase the Buddhists, suffering is desire and it’s this desire for new technology that pulls us down into the depths of self-hatred and jealousy whenever a new upgrade is released and we immediately feel belittled in comparison to our technologically superior peers. I think it’s fair to say that most technology has now gone past the point of dramatic leaps forwards in terms of ground-breaking usefulness and instead just panders to our lust for attachment, ownership and primitive social status.

So maybe it’s time to slow this cycle of constant upgrades and releases down, instead focusing on the point of technology in the first place – it’s ability to enhance and improve our lives. Does a eight megapixel camera really compare better to a five? Does a slightly faster processor in our smartphone actually make any noticeable difference whatsoever? Should we even care about these minor differences? Lets stop being sucked in by the power of brands and product identity and concentrate on the purity of technology as a resource for humanity instead…

And of course I’m just saying all of this because it’s highly likely that Apple will release the iPad 3 and iPhone 5 this year, immediately making all of my treasured and hard earned technology obsolete. Bastards.

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Author: Gordon McLachlan

Gordon is uncomfortably good looking.

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  1. VMCA February 28, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Honestly? I used to feel that way back in my horrible PC days. *THAT* is when I felt betrayed and jealous of new releases and upgrades, but it was because the technology wasn’t *that* good. It was flawed. The desire for something better was very real. Now I’m all apple. I have a Macbook that still runs Tiger. My iMac runs Snow Leopard, I have an iPhone 4. The technology is so good – that I *don’t* feel like I have to upgrade at the first available opportunity. Sure I look forward to getting an iPhone 5 or an iPad 3, but because the apple technology is so incredible, I don’t feel compelled. In fact I feel comfortable enough with what I have to realise that it’s ok to wait until the second or third release after the one I bought before I upgrade. Maybe it’s patience that comes with age, either way, I do agree with your statement that we should focus more on what technology can do FOR us, rather than be it’s beeyatch.

    • Gordon March 2, 2012 at 12:18 am

      Hehe, I remember those days… the constant urges to upgrade your PC every time a new graphics card or processor came out. Oddly enough I don’t feel that way any more, partially because I think the advances in hardware and noticeable upgrades have slowed down a lot. It seems to be mobiles and tablets is where the race is at now.

      And yeah, I’m all for technology and upgrades but when it becomes about consuming the items rather than actual, tangible advantages, I think it’s gone too far.

  2. Scott May 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I agree with the post, and I think it really comes down to the consumer lifestyle that is constantly marketed at the public. Instead of buy things and keep them for a long time, it’s buy things and continually replace them (often due to low quality). With Apple, I find that I am OK with my laptop getting 5 years old…as long as it keeps on working. Where Apple gets me is the whole ecosystem. I worked for them for 2 years at a store, and I was always an iPhone hold out due to the lack of a Verizon alternative. Not having the iPhone, yet working with them nonstop, was such a difficult thing to do! I had my Macbook, and wanted the iPhone to compliment. Now, I moved to another country and bought my first iPhone about 9 months ago (iPhone 4). As I have become used to owning that, I now crave and continually think about getting an iPad to complete the trifecta of Apple products. I used to own an iPad when they originally came out, and I had to sell it during the move. There is nothing in my life that I NEED an iPad for, but I do miss the enjoyment of using it, and after seeing them around at cafes and out and about, I now start wondering what I can do more efficiently on an iPad than on an iPhone, or what I will enjoy more…etc etc.

    It’s a vicious cycle where you buy what you crave, then learn to crave something else in the ecosystem, and they are just terribly good at marketing the idea that all of their devices has a ‘needed’ space in your life. Then you fill that hole only to wonder how much you can improve it.

    I think you hit it right on the head though, it’s about figuring out why we have the tech in the first place…to improve our lives and make things easier. I have the feeling that if we feel we really use our tech to help our lives, its just much easier to feel satisfied and caught up in it, without wondernig what new piece of tech is coming along. Especially at this point, Apple does release relatively frequent updates to its mobile devices, and all are not necessary. The power, and the specs currently available can meet virtually anyones needs for years to come.

    Barry Schwartz does an awesome video on TED about how the options available to us as consumers causes a decline in satisfaction with our purchases. There is always a feeling you need to improve, or that you could have got a better deal, or what is the next best thing etc. Since I have listened to that, I have been trying to make my decisions without considering 10,000 alternatives, and I have been trying to be satisfied with what I have and let it do its thing, instead of getting ready to replace it days after the new feel wore off!

    • Gordon May 7, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Well put. Right now technology is moving from useful aid to consumerist food. Once we stop buying products because of use and just start buying them because they are the latest version, we’ve moved beyond their original intentions.

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