I am still toting around my iPhone 8, and I’ve dodged several op system updates since I bought it. It handles phone calls and texts, I can surf with it in an emergency. It tells time. That’s all I need it to do (and I’m thinking of getting a mechanical watch). I consider most apps spyware and religiously avoid them.
I consider myself a closet Luddite. I’ve reached the age where most change has gone from bothersome to burdensome. Then I came across this post from Ozan Varol, who is a smarty-pants kinda guy (think astrophysicist goes to law school). He and his family still order DVDs through Netflix–the kind of DVDs that come in the mail. They found they enjoyed the movies more if they had to search and surf for which one to order (none of this also-bought baloney stealing all the rabbit-hole fun from the process), wait for it to arrive, and unwrap it from its packaging.
The “convenience” of having their choices limited by algorithms, and the “efficiency” of instant gratification stole a lot of the joy from the process. Reading that, I was reminded of something one of my daughter’s friends observed: Innovation is often next to useless, but it’s marketed so effectively, that we come to believe it’s necessary. The broom, for instance, worked nearly as well as the vacuum cleaner, was much quieter, lighter, cheaper, and had a smaller carbon footprint.
The vacuum cleaner offered a slight improvement in cleaning result, and maybe it saved time, but it cost us quiet and did some environmental damage. Computer technology advancements now seem to mostly consist of shaving another few ounces off the machine’s weight, and making it “faster.” As if finding 250,000 hits in a quarter second is a big deal compared to finding them in half a second, and as if I lack the strength to tote around four extra ounces of hardware.
Is popping something into the microwave really a better way to prepare a meal than “by hand,” with friends or family pitching, while good smells fill the kitchen and everybody’s mouth waters? Where does the saved time go when we nuke a pre-made veggie bowl? To reading the kiddos a bedtime story, or to spending another half hour at the office?
The point of this semi-rant: I know a lot of people who must have an e-reader’s expandable type if they are to continue to enjoy books. Innovation can be great. But few innovations are all good, and sometimes the
losses associated with updated technology–privacy, quiet, breadth of choice, the joy of anticipation, good kitchen smells–are ignored as the benefits are foghorned at high decibels.
Is there a part of life where you refuse to innovate, where you still do it the old-fashioned way at least some of the time? What benefit do you get from that decision? I feel as if I ought to send a broom to one commenter, but with a $50 e-gift card, somebody can buy a broom and order some DVD’s through the mail.