Technology: Is it all too much?

Are we going backwards as Technology races forwards? Or is technology reaching saturation point?

I was watching an army of commuters from my vantage point at a trendy London café, and among the thousands of foot soldiers marching by, every last one of them had the same thing in their hand – a cell phone. Whether you’re a businessman, a Mother fetching the kids, the poorest labourer digging the roads- everybody has a cell phone.

Is it so important to stay in touch 24/7? Do we really have that much to say?

I don’t think so. People are being distracted and work production is actually going down as projects take longer to complete, which has prompted many employers to ban cell-phones at work altogether.  The amount of company time spent on Facebook and twitter by bored office workers is mind-blowing.

I need the phone and a computer to do business but I am not interested in who is having a coffee or a tea unless it’s some hot new spot to try. Menial daily tasks do not interest me at all. I have enough menial stuff of my own to do without being reminded of it by friends across the globe.

As much as I am a techno-junkie – and I recognise that this amazing world of technology really is exciting and stimulating, sometimes I find myself drowning in it.  Trying to maintain an adequate presence on twitter, Facebook, linked-in, and my website is really time-consuming, especially while running a day job and being a responsible wife and mother – things are just all getting far too consuming.

We reach a point when we start going backwards and technology, rather than making life easier, makes life far more complicated. It’s interesting seeing what was supposed to have happened and what has happened. Magazine production changed over to computers to save time, yet they are still always late for deadlines.  Fifteen years ago I used to have one landline and one physical address per contact.  Now I have at least five “addresses” and five contact numbers for each.

George Orwell’s classic “1984” explains our current situation perfectly in that our every move can now be tracked with modern technology. Even if the mobile phone is off, Big Brother knows where we are.  That whole FICA registration scam was the most subtle form of personal identification – (ie population control).

Scary stuff. Who needs a reference letter and a CV when applying for a job? Employees can Google your entire life history to date. One glimpse at Facebook and they know your love life, what type of people you mix with and what you do at the weekend, before you even get to the interview.

The technology itself appears to be exhausted and struggling. We are reaching the point where it is devouring all available power and bandwidth. Try using Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, Skype or twitter on a Sunday evening between 5pm and 8pm. All are reduced to a crawl. Blackberry went missing during an “unexplained” 3-day blackout earlier in the year. And there is nothing more frustrating than technology that doesn’t work.

From a design perspective though, how can we not be seduced by the thousands of sexy, beautifully presented handheld gizmos and gadgets that improve upon their own design standards every second month. We are now on ipad 3. They sold over three million in the first three days of its launch. THREE million in 72 hours! It would take me 72 hours to count to 3 million!

Apple have created a brilliant portfolio of showcase products – the ultimate trophy phones and computers, but do we really need a Mac Book Air, an iphone, an ipod AND an ipad? I fell for it like every other aesthetic trend-conscious creative on the planet, and enthusiastically grabbed the full set. I was the first first-responder. Yes, they are sexy and beautiful, yes they are envy-inducing, yes they are useful, but there is a huge overlap and I spend hours playing electronic ping pong, simply synching the same information from one to the other and back again.  All I really need is one of the above that does it all so I don’t need to carry three different devices.

Apple has more cash money in the bank than 30% of the world’s nations. It makes around $1,300 a second. Steve Jobs was the ultimate designer’s designer and created the ultimate designer brand. The moral of THAT story for all struggling companies is- design something that people want and they will buy!

We designers are our own worst enemies and are so easily swayed by cool lines and vibrant colours. Having always been design-driven I won’t have anything ugly in my office on principle. The other day I needed a printer and this huge ugly printer was available for a steal. But it was just too raw and ‘un-designed’ for my eye and would irritate me every time I looked at it. Even if they gave me it for free, I would never use it.

So where are we heading with all this new technology and knowledge? How will we evolve? My feeling is that people like myself will take stock and, driven by the expense of time and money and a question of clutter, be far more selective in their choice of equipment and what they use it for.

Dee De Kock

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