Updated: April 13, 2011
Our world changes at a rapid pace. Before you can say bubonic plague, there's a new version of Google Chrome coming out. Whenever a new iPhone comes out, there's an almost religious moment interfering with Earth's magnetic field, caused by digital reverence. It's all about flashy things and gratification. No one really remembers that browsers were designed for porn and that phones were once used to call people. But it has not always been like that.
Back in the olden days of glory, you could go for months without getting a mail from anyone. If you wanted to avoid people, you could; you just didn't have to do anything special, finding you was difficult. Today, if you don't respond to an email quickly enough, people will think you are 1) dead 2) abducted 3) dying - and probably send a rescue party to find you. Once, you had to sweat to find information. Once, dating actually incurred a financial penalty as you had to go out and waste your time on Ugos. Not everything about advancement is inherently good. Let me tell you about five pieces of modern technology that actually made life worse.
First, let's talk about pixels. 720p is nothing special. A typical computer monitor from 1998 could do that. Second, while having a 40-inch flat TV screen with zenithal bistable crystals and a refresh rate of 5YHz can be fun, people forget that it's all about content.
Twenty years ago, hunting for content was fun. You had to go to a videotheque to get some VHS, you had to fake your ID to be able to rent some of the spicier stuff, you worked hard to find the right movie. It was all about the thrill of holding that fat, clunky VHS tape in your hand. You could hear it play, you could hear it rewind. Primitive and special.
Today, getting a movie is as trivial as waiting for your bandwidth to vomit the file onto your disk and Bob's your uncle. It's become so easy that people are downloading pretty much anything, even things they would have looked for in the first place otherwise. What you get is the dilution of quality and dampening of emotional impact. Rather than enjoying TV, you are merely consuming heaploads of colors and sounds at a commercial rate.
Yes, the digital era makes obscure, old content far more accessible than it ever was in the analog age, so there's a byproduct blessing to the rapid growth of communication and media, but at the end of the day, you're sadder now watching Avatar than you were while watching Rambo, and you don't even realize why.
Some researches tell us we will all die from jaw, ear and throat cancer in the coming 40 years, others tell us that hormesistic effect of radiation emitted by cellphones actually improves our cognitive skills. Regardless of the potential hazard, cellphones and smartphones are one of the modern banes of existence.
Cellphones make you visible and available. They force you to keep in contact with people the nature never intended for you to socialize with. They make your work life harder, since you may get a surprise call at any time, day or night, week start or week end. Cellphones are a refugee-mentality commodity that people will use if they have access to. If you used to waste 10 minutes of your time a day using a landline phone fifteen years back, that loss has grown to one hour daily, for the simple fact you can take your cellphone anywhere you go, including the crapper. You pay more money, too, both for the actual device, the services and the calls.
Cellphones have turned people blessed with opposing thumbs and ten digits into monkeys hammering on a 2-inch touchscreen with all the speed and grace of a retarded badger molesting a tennis ball. With full keyboard devices available recently, the charade of using your numpad to guess the alphabet letters has become almost bearable, but it's still three orders of magnitude slower and less comfortable than using a proper keyboard.
Pay attention: hunched people, holding their precious 5,000-dollar addiction devices close to their chin, gently flaking skin oil and dandruff onto the scratched touch screens, squinting at tiny symbols, typing with their index fingers like a chimp operating a scalextric model. That's called progress.
You may say, oh Dedoimedo, you conservative troll, go back to your cave, cellphones have games and mail and games and I can use my failbook (lowercase) and I can be connected everywhere. You may say that. But you are wrong. There's no reason to be connected 24/7. Even the President of USA is not always connected. You want games? Buy a decent gaming rig and play games. You want mail? Go home, open your browser or mail client and read your mails. You want social networking? Don't.
Cellphones, smartphones - are supposed to be phones. They might be essentially small and crippled computers, with media players, camera and suchlike, but that does not make them useful or comfortable or worth having. It merely demonstrates the power of miniaturization through advancements in silicon processing. How does your cellphone web camera scale to a proper camera? It does not.
What about the quality of sound? Crap. What about the video? Oh, you get a whole of three inches of screen equity. It's so good for your eyes. Lastly, cellphones are another item that you carry about. It's a reminder that you're everyone's bitch, waiting for their call. So we have, extra waste of time, money, electricity, you have become an information slave, you compromise, you trade quality for discomfort, mediocre results and bling-bling, you spend exorbitant sums on tiny blocks of plastic and glass, and you forget that little thing was only meant to let you make a phone call now and then.
This is the crown jewel of wastehood. Failbook is only the latest invention, but there were tons of similar experiments in the past. Social networking is everything that society and network are not. Instead of actually meeting people and practicing your skills of communication and empathy, you closet yourself in your home and fence on the Internets using your mighty e-saber. No one can beat you, you're the man, the most feared champion of forums, the master debater, the most original linker to articles written by others, you have the most artistic profile picture, your list of friends is the best and the longest, you win every argument. Your quotes are most poetic, your avatar is Lars von Trier quality, your game scores are awesome, you are a member of seventy virtual fraternities, you have a rich and engaging life, and you never miss the opportunity to tell the world, your awesome and hungry audience, how your meaningless days are rumbling by. But then, your kidney needs a transplant or your Internet connection goes down and - darkness.
Note: Image taken from Wikipedia, licensed under GNU FDL 1.2.
When there's something wrong, in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ah, there you go. Social networking is an attempt to create the illusion of what this world is, best epitomized in the ultra-cheesy Eurovision song Insieme, by Toto Cotunio. LOL.
Internet is an information highway. true. But friends make it does not. Change mentality it does not. We are as primitive, xenophobic, biased, mistrustful, and arrogant as we were twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago. Everyone has a PhD in society until they actual have to go outside and meet real people. What more, the alienation created by the artificial easiness of the online world make people inadequate for real social networking.
Think about it like this: You would not go outside and spill coffee into someone's face, because you know you would get nunchucked in the dingleberries. On the other hand, it's so easy to offend someone online. Social networking actually breeds a generation of people that will suffer from serious relationship problems once they grow up and realize that no one cares how many connections you have in your social profile.
Don't ask me, ask Jeremy, James and Richard from Top Gear. They will tell you the same thing: the new cars are safer, more efficient, smarter, much better equipped, and many other superlatives. But one thing they don't do. They don't set your soul afire.
You can find rare examples here and there, but overall, on average, there are far fewer character cars than there used to be. And in the long run, they are also far less reliable. Modern cards are built to last only a short span of years. They won't break as long as the warranty lasts. It does not pay for car manufacturers to have their cars break as long as they pay for the replacements. Modern cards are a plug-and-play commodity, meant to be replaced every 3-4 years. In the past, the car replacement cycle was much longer, partly because cars were built to survive the tear and wear of time and abuse. And let's not forget that modern cards are giant wheeled computers with tons of wiring wrapped in aluminum.
But the most important thing is the soul, the character. Would you rather drive the old Mini or the new Mini? Would you rather drive the old Beetle or the new Beetle? Can you think of another car with as much finesse, style, impact, and class as Citroen DS 21? Can you imagine any of the contemporary cars being discussed fifty years from now the likes of Aston Martin DB5 or Ferrari 250GTO?
While I immensely enjoy my six-speed-manual turbo-charged hatchback, I'd give an arm for a spin in one of the olden legends, like Lancia Delta Integrale or the original Mustang. When I say an arm, I do not necessarily mean my arm, but an arm. Someone else's.
Note: Image taken from Wikipedia, licensed under GFDL.
Your modern car may have seventeen air bags, powered steering and a USB plug for your smartphone, but it won't make you shed a tear. And you will replace it like a used condom come the warranty expiry date. The technology makes transportation green and sophisticated, but the abstraction layer has its price. You can't fiddle with your car engine, you can't replace any parts, you can't mend it with a nylon stocking and a hammer. Your cars used to be open-source, now they aren't any more.
The last candidate in our list is the news. Old-fashioned and printed news media is slowly dying its dinosaur death, although it will take another generation or four until it vanishes, however it is being fast replaced, superseded, supplanted, and augmented by e-news.
When someone farts in North Korea, you get an instant update in high-definition torrent the next moment half across the globe. However, this does not make the news any more useful or worth listening/watching than the old media. If anything, the average person is bombarded with so much information that even the simple joy of learning about an impeding meteor strike has been robbed from us.
The average person is virtually injected with bad. The whole purpose of news media is to frighten and shock people. Fear breeds ratings, as simple as that. This is why you won't ever seen anything good being reported, expect an occasional sports event. You can see a live execution in a would-be oppressed country streamed live to audience regardless of their age, but if there's so much as one square inch of booty, there's the parental advisory to keep kids from negative influences.
In the 70s and 80s and even 90s, the person was subjected to small doses of this crap. Today, torrents upon torrents of steaming piles of useless shock are channeled using any and every possible information transport, making already unhappy and miserable people hate their puny existence even more. Well done. It's trolling of the highest form, and it's sold as holy water, pay per view.
There you go. Technology is good. In general. Today, we enjoy easier access to information and education and much better medicine because of the rapid advancement in technology in the last twenty years. And if you examine the five baddies listed above from a slightly different angle, you can find merit.
But the benefits are offset by an onslaught of hassle and worry and tension that turn simple earthly pleasure into muddy, tasteless chores. Finding good movies for Saturday evening, calling your friends, meeting for a drink in the pub, tuning in your car, and reading about What Happened In The World While You Were Sleeping used to be fun activities. Now, they have become common and boring. Technology robbeth away the unique masochism of enjoying the adventure. You just get served the short summary. If Robinson Crusoe were alive today, he would have SMS-ed for help. Damn. I want 80s back, Miami Vice style.
P.S. Before you go, ask yourselves this: Is he serious? Is he trolling? What is he trying to say? Aha. Oh, BTW, the thumb teaser image on the homepage is in public domain.