Our Obsession with Innovation Is Just a Marketing Trick.

This article eloquently puts to words an old pet peeve of mine.

Progress in communication is only good in a sense that we now communicate faster and more efficient. But this innovation did not change the content of those communications. We’re still saying the same old shit to each other, just faster. The quality of data, and by that I mean the content, the ideas, the thoughts, is not a subject to innovation. We’re not becoming better humans now that we possess an iPhone. So if you praise technology you have to praise only the delivery of content, not the content itself. And if so, then what’s the public good of such innovations? How did it make our lives better? Other than make us available 24/7 to our employer and everyone else? And gave us the tools for gratuitous displays of our daily routines? Is that progress? And what’s the social utility of this progress? The ability to send your boss a spreadsheet at 1am? Yeah, before you couldn’t do that and now you can. Now we can download the entire content of the Library of Congress to our devices, but what use is it if we have no time and desire to read it?

We adjust our lives to innovations, not innovations to our lives. You weren’t sitting in 1985, thinking: “Oh, man! Imagine how cool it would be if there were such a device that we could take pictures with and then to display them immediately in some kind of cyberspace that everyone had access to!” No one was thinking that. But such a device got invented by tampering, not by purpose and now we somehow consider it a great technological achievement.

The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined. By now we are familiar enough with the magnitude of the changes in all the spheres of our existence to move beyond the futuristic rhapsodies that characterize much of the literature on the subject. We can no longer roll over and celebrate and shop. Every phone in every pocket contains a “picture of ourselves,” and we must ascertain what that picture is and whether we should wish to resist it. Here is a humanist proposition for the age of Google: The processing of information is not the highest aim to which the human spirit can aspire, and neither is competitiveness in a global economy. The character of our society cannot be determined by engineers.

Let me put it in even simpler terms. The technological leap from a rotary phone to a cell phone was revolutionary. The change between iPhone5 and iPhone6 is just marketing. It’s big business selling us shit we don’t need.

And, yes, as the author suggests, it is the revolutionaries’ burden to prove that a life with an iPhone is better than a life with a Blackberry.


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