We are overdue a backlash toward our concept of an “information economy”, and it may be beginning to happen. I run across more and more columns and articles such as the ones I referenced in my last blog. Maybe an opportunity to think more about quality.
There is no doubt that digital electronics in all of their many applications have brought and are bringing major changes to individuals and our societies. As an engineer, and therefore being suspected of being a nerd/geek, I have been pleased for some years to see engineers and scientists becoming famous, getting rich, making the society pages, and being followed by paparazzi. I was made happy for weeks by the movie “Revenge of the Nerds in 1984, just as I cheered for Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”.
I am probably not a typical user of digital devices and the internet because I tend to use them as tools to accomplish specific tasks rather than for entertainment. From my standpoint, digital equipment and software, and the internet itself, have a ways to go, before they can be considered high quality products. Their positive impacts on my life are dimmed by demands on my time and questionable effects on personal and social traditions that I am used to and value (privacy? elections?).
To me, computers are tools to do many things, and tools should not take so much time outside of being used for their purpose. I just bought a new Apple Powerbook pro, and it is requiring the usual hours and expense of upgrading applications that the new (to me) operating system does not like, and identifying and replacing (upgrading?) software and hardware features I have developed facility with over the years. I have used Apple computers since the Apple 2, but I am wearying of hardware and software changes which force me to learn new tricks, but do not add appreciably to performance. And some very useful features disappear each time. Obviously Apple is trying to move the desktop operating system toward that used in handheld devices, but for instance, it took me a bit of time to find that scan bars can be made to remain independently of cursor position. And apparently the small useful arrows at the bottom of the scan bar are gone forever. Give me a break!
I spent the last few days happily entertaining myself by working on a swell 1948 two ton Chevrolet truck that I acquired from a friend. Here is a photo so you can share its beauty. Wrenches take no preparation (they don’t even need to be booted up), and the truck is amazingly straight forward mechanically and easy to work on compared to my wife’s highly digital car (or the internet). Obviously mature technology.
I find that the internet becomes more time consuming to use as it fills with ads, junk, and redundant and questionable information. How about quality of information? And as I said in an earlier post, I am belatedly entering the world of social networking, and will probably get used to it, but wow! Talk about information overload— or maybe word overload, since much of the information is certainly far from earth shaking. Many people I know have a twitter account and a Face Book page, but few of them make much use of them. Of the 900 million (or however many) people are on Facebook, I wonder how many of them actively use it. The same for Twitter. The next bubble may be a social networking bubble, as marketing moves on to its next big thing, and the novelty of communicating with hundreds, if not thousands of people one will never know wears off.
I will probably write an apology post later when. I become addicted to social networking. But I presently consider the software and hardware associated with communications and computing to be miraculous, but not yet of astonishing quality. I was recently treated to a gigabit per second internet service by Google (swell), but the router that came with the service seems to like to be rebooted often (not swell).
I am enthusiastic and optimistic about the digital revolution, but still considering it to be the digital experiment, and hoping for a conclusion that empowers us while demanding less from us.