Last night I was watching the Charlie Rose show and in the last half they had tech V.C. Roger McNamee on talking about where the internet and all that hardware we have is headed. The more I listened to him the more I was reminded of why so many tech ventures fail. For whatever reason most techies can’t seem to wrap their mind around the concept of ‘practicality’. They seem lost on how people make their decisions in non-tech daily lives. Let me delve into some examples.
A big wonderment of Mcnamee’s is why PC’s are still around and everyone hasn’t latched onto a tablet which I grant you is much lighter, easier to haul around. I can tell you why I haven’t made the switch. Because I can’t type 70 wpm on a tablet to produce a 300 page novel. The middle-level manager can’t be up at midnight cranking out that 40 page earth-shattering productivity report for his boss the next morning solely with a tablet. And let me nix this here – while voice recognition software may be accurate enough that someday I can ‘speak’ my novel it isn’t the same in this sense: when I type, I can feel the wrong word coming off my fingers sometimes and more importantly I can see it on a page. I would still have to make corrections and then make a hardcopy (which I do now) to get it right.
Then there is the price of tablets which for most people in the U.S. is too steep at the moment especially with a data package. We are behind most 1st world countries in infrastructure to stream data but they keep investing in gadgets rather than infrastructure which only compounds the problem.
McNamee talked about how search engines are not needed for apps are really search engines. Good point and apps are great IF you know what you are looking for but suppose you don’t? Suppose I want to explore and find something new/unusual that isn’t in the app or at the top of its popularity list? How do I discover the obscure?
By the way, apps are a very limited tool in this respect. Everyone I know has more apps than they use. It doesn’t matter how many apps you have – 5 or 50 – you don’t use them all. If you spend all your time managing apps then tech isn’t making life easier but rather muddling the picture.
Of course there is the new Facebook graph search announced yesterday which is itself an example of how tech is setting us back not pushing us forward. Facebook will follow you around the web and then when you search for something show where you have been in the past and where those you are connected to, like your friends in the same town, often go/recommend. Your search results will be based on this.
We often hear that we should ‘think outside the box’ but what Facebook is doing is pushing us deeper in the box. It is saying you need never explore outside your limited circle as though there aren’t enough people living in an echo chamber the way it is. What a sad world it will be if we all play to Facebook’s tune. Our world will shrink to a small virtual circle that we dance around with the likes of Facebook and Google as the Pied Piper. The days of finding a path and taking the chance of trekking down it just to see where it goes will be gone.
Everything is going mobile and I understand why. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets are forcing that but ask yourself, what do you do when the networks go down? How will your business or personal life operate then? Do you even have the address of your friends written down to send them a postcard? Ever been in a cafe when the computers were out and credit cards couldn’t be used and the employees were so bad at math they couldn’t deal with cash? I have. Ever been in a natural disaster like a bad storm or earthquake and suddenly there are no ATM’s and the supermarket will only deal in cash for a couple of weeks? I have. Now what do you suppose will happen if there is a real war and cyber attacks are a vital arm of that? And smartphones are great to control everything including your wallet until someone you don’t even know is there gets close enough intercept all the information or hack the phone. That technology already exists by the way. This concept that tech is all we need in our lives is just wrong.
Finally, a quick word about numbers. When I watch a tech guru on tv saying 100 million people bought this or downloaded that, you know what my first thought is? ‘Yeah, but there are over 6 billion people on the planet so what about the other 5 billion 900 million?’. I think sometimes techies race so far ahead that they forget they need the people to be at least within earshot or it becomes a self-defeating proposition.
Tech is supposed to be a supplement to our lives not the catch-all, be-all of our existence. I am by no means anti-tech, in fact I like it. I just know that the best parts of living normally don’t involve an app or require software for the experience.