I’ll be honest; I’m rarely rising the bleeding edge of technology. Despite being professionally involved in IT and electronics since 1982, it’s safe to say that I’m not one of the guys who gets calls to become an ‘early adopter’ of some thrilling piece of technology that I can’t live without. I use what I need to use to get my professional job done, and then in my personal life I tend to be a couple of years behind the edge. After all, that gives folks ample time to find the bugs and get them sorted. This saves me from tearing out what’s left of my hair. 🙂
It also means that occasionally whole generations of technology pass me by whilst I happily manage with what I have. This can occasionally be embarrassing – after many years dealing with the jokes about my ‘steam powered’ cell phone, 2009 was the year I caught up and got a Blackberry, and realised quickly that I’d been missing something that would have made my life easier.
However, the last few years have seen me wondering what the heck’s happening on more than one occasion. We’re encouraged to go DVD, then comes Blue-Ray. We’re encouraged to look towards digital TV, then High Definition, and now 3D TV. On radio we have DAB – this is probably the worst of the lot as in many cases DAB reception is significantly worse than conventional Band 2 FM radio. The Internet bandwidth required to use up to date web sites seems to be ever increasing, and the hardware required to run cutting edge games seems to get more complex each year. I’ve begun to think that perhaps it’s time to try and break out of this continuous consumption loop and maybe, just maybe, stop for a year or two. I was further reinforced in this view by this article in The Guardian newspaper.
The bottom line is that we know the ecosystem of the planet is increasingly fragile. We also know that some of the industries with significant impact in terms of raw materials, production of components and disposal of waste and ‘outdated’ equipment is consumer electronics. The companies producing the endless churn of new ‘must have’ products in order to keep their markets buoyant spout appropriately ‘green’ corporate messages but they are simply hypocritical efforts to gloss over the impact they have on the world.
Some may say that a world without new generations of phones and TVs every year is inconceivable, that progress is essential. But is it? Can we afford to carry on producing gadgets and equipment that is incredibly difficult to recycle, that swallows up disposable income, generates landfill, poisons the environment and uses up irreplaceable resources? Especially when there is older technology around that meets the same needs but maybe not in 3d, maybe not with high resolution.
In a world that is increasingly suffering major ecological and sociological shocks, is it acceptable for large corporations to continue to encourage us to amuse ourselves in order to ignore the big issues?
Or maybe that’s the whole idea that we amuse ourselves to death?