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The Steamroller of Progress

14 February 2012

As I was sitting in the waiting room at the oral surgeon today (yep, there again — I could probably be mayor of this place on FourSquare if I actually used FourSquare), I managed to look up from the Cracked article I was reading on my iPhone long enough to realize that there were, indeed, other humans in the waiting room as well. As I waited for the shock of that revelation to subside, I noticed that the lady sitting across the aisle from me was texting from a really old phone.

Now, it wasn’t a Motorola Micro-Tac or anything. It was a smaller phone with a slide-out keyboard, so it couldn’t have been any older than, say, six or seven years. And still, the words that popped into my head were that’s a really old phone. Six years ago, I looked essentially the same as I do now. I haven’t gotten really old in the interim. So why did I find myself wondering how this lady could survive in today’s world with such ancient technology? It wasn’t even a smartphone. It wasn’t even a Blackberry.

I read a theory that the only way most humans can deal with the huge ramp-up in technology over the past decade or so is to treat it as if it was a completely normal development — as if it’s no big deal. And that’s exactly what I think my brain was doing — it treats my iPhone 4 as something akin to the base level of normal technology, not as a fantastic device my puny brain couldn’t have conceived of ten years ago. My Kindle Fire is just a thing I read books on, not something that would have made someone my age in the 1970s shit himself with awe. And that’s our defense mechanism — greeting fantastic advances in technology with a halfhearted “meh.”

Ever catch yourself doing that? If you do, just think for a moment how far we’ve come just since you were a kid.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 February 2012 1123

    My defense mechanism doesn’t work well because I totally freak out (usually in a good way) when I see cool technology. If there’s any side of me that’s “meh,” about it, it’s that I rarely by the first generation of new things, simply because…well, it’s expensive and the second version usually has bugs worked out.

    My iPhone still amazes me. I know some say the iPad crushes the Kindle Fire, but my Kindle Fire does all I need it to do. (Not that it’s a competition — they are two different devices. If I want a photo, I won’t use a Kindle Fire or iPad, anyway — I’ll use my phone.) Then when you see things like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zh-bS5SDpw or this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16844432 … I damn-near run around the apartment like a crack Muppet, absolutely astonished at what things will be like in 10 years.

    With writing…the first time I saw somebody reading a story on their old Palm PDA, while others scoffed, I thought, “Man, what will that be like in 5 or 10 years.” And now we know. I have a library just out there somewhere that I can retrieve on my phone or Kindle Fire. I can read a sample of a book and buy it just like that.

    So I may not drive a flying car to work, but at the same time, people are scary enough in traffic on the ground — I can only imagine the terror in the air! (Assuming, or course, a Jetson’s future and not a more realistic computer-controlled flying car.) No jet pack, but we DO have food in bags, even if it’s not so good. And we have so many things I couldn’t have thought of, and I’m geeky enough to have tried. I love technology because it really IS the stuff of imagination, and…it makes me appreciate just getting away from it all and hiking even more.

  2. 14 February 2012 1130

    Just think Gaming Systems from when I (being about 10 years older than you). I had a “top of the line” Atari 2600 Gaming system.

    Compare THAT to even a Playstation 1 and its amazing the difference.

    • 14 February 2012 1142

      I had both. The difference was huge — but I really felt that one. I was amazed by the PS1 back in college… the PS3 didn’t even get a “meh” from me.

  3. 14 February 2012 1153

    I’ll give you that. From 8 bit to “WHOA ! REALISTIC !” is pretty amazing. But from Realistic to MORE realistic isn’t as exciting…

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