MADISON, Wis. – Most people in the electronics industry today are aware of the revolutionary job they’ve done in developing technology that has changed forever the way we live.
Are they proud?
Are they ready to take full responsibility?
They should. But first, let us examine the reality here.
Most of us can’t imagine a day when we receive not a single e-mail or make no cell phone calls. Not a day goes by without getting text messages from our kids, or finding mildly interesting or totally irrelevant tweets from someone we may or may not know that well.
We may make no new entries in Facebook today, but we sure know someone among our circle of friends and relatives, whose “first-thing-in-the-morning ritual” is checking her Facebook page before even going to the bathroom.
Even for those of us who trust no one for street directions, GPS has become our mainstay when we drive in unfamiliar territory. We zip through tolls using our E-Zpass (RFID), and we travel abroad with an RFID-embedded passport.
For better or worse, life today is ubiquitously connected (or entangled) – virtually and electronically – to almost everyone and everywhere in the universe, the moreso the more we choose it to be.
While all of us owe a lot to the engineering community for the “social” progress we’ve made in recent decades, those who have done the actual heavy-duty engineering work often remain quiet. They rarely brag about what they’ve engineered and accomplished.
Even when an outfit like Texas Instruments tried to honor ‘engineers’ with its “Thank an engineer” series of video clips in 2009, it felt a little odd, and a tad embarrassing, to watch these normally anonymous toilers so nakedly exposed.
But the whole notion of “social progress” engineered by the engineering community has become entirely a different story for me. I recently came across a video which captured changes – primarily instigated by new technology – in the basic behavior of our next generation of human beings.
The video shows a one-year-old girl accustomed to playing randomly with her parent’s iPad. We witness her frustration with a regular paper magazine, which refuses to respond as she touches, sweeps, squeezes and pushes the images on the inert, non-interactive paper pages.
I’ve heard before that a younger generation accustomed to using its thumbs for texting is more naturally inclined today to use thumbs, instead of the traditional index finger, to ring a doorbell. (A TI spokesperson shared this story). I also remember meeting an engineer almost 20 years ago. He said his two-year old daughter – brainwashed by Daddy’s Mac – spent months double-clicking herself on the chest first before initiating verbal contact with her fellow carbon-based life forms (people).
That was a little shocking then. Now, we’ve got a whole generation in danger of thinking that a Playboy centerfold who doesn’t stand up, walk off the page and shake her booty on command is nothing but a broken iPad!
Changing widespread social behavior is an awesome accomplishment. But it’s also scary and unpredictable, fraught inevitably with unintended consequences, like perhaps a baby who has unwittingly traded her imagination for a magic finger.
It’s even scarier to claim responsibility for this sort of thing.
I am not so convinced that there is deliberately planned obsolescence to get us to buy more.
What is more true is that as technology advances we can achieve more: faster mobile CPUs, more flash, crisper screens,...
Once a line of products is off the cutting edge (eg. basic candy-bar phones) they don't really change any more and people will keep them for years.
Uh,, forget to enlighten all of you.
The change/progress of science front is .. slowing down during the last several decades.
The number of theoretical physicists has shrank to minimal. The nano-front has been mostly hyped, not much meaningful application/breakthrough so far.
You guys are just been cheated to think the change is getting faster.
People in the 1930s are seeing nuclear energy, x-ray, radio etc popping out, far more exciting.
The fact that so much of our current technology is intended to become obsolete, in order for us to purchase more, is a problem, both in the amount of waste it generates and in the resources that it consumes. But probably the worst part is that some become so very dependent on this junk to carry out their basic functions. Conversations reduced to stupid little tweets, and language corrupted by texting abbreviations, all bring to mind the concept of "goodthink" from the book "1984". IT seems that in manny instances the media has become a substitute for the message. Certainly change has been accelerated, but change is not the same as improvement.
Technology always changes. To a great extent people change little or at least very slowly. It can take generations to fully remove old ignorances and prejudges. Technology seems to be changing at an ever increasing pace. The next few decades will be frightening and exciting at the same time.
As our younger generations grow up completely dependent on this new technology, rather than fear or disdain it, we should think about how many of us thirty years ago could have thrived or even survived without the technology glass houses of the time. Even back then, we were dependent on automation for food production, transportation, clean water, sanitation and more. The support capacity of our land was a fraction of the population in nations with a decent standard of living.
The most important thing during all of this change is to keep our sense of humanity. The rest is just a set of tools, whether it be computers or combines. With our humanity and ethics intact, change will still be difficult but will largely be absorbed into beneficial roles. Without our humanity and ethics, technology becomes our enemy.
I dont see change accelerating.
Maybe it appears to be, or you just take previous change for granted or consider them being there forever already.
the current PAD mania or whatever is just squeezing what already exists inside a smaller box. For a 2 years old it's a fresh exciting new toy compared with old school toys.
For me it's worthless, (yeah, I don't own or want a pad, i m cool with my desktop).
I am more interested in the progress of entertainment industry. I am kind of missing those days when MJ, Prince or even nirvana was fresh hot.
Nothing exciting nowadays.
Yes, "who knows" may be the right answer... But I'd thought of bringing this up, because some of the changes -- which may not matter that much after all as you point out, I agree -- used to happen in a span of 50 years. Now, it is happening in a span of 10 years.
Do I think the Japanese people people have special regard for the soul of technology? I don't know. Obviously, I can't speak on behalf of all Japanese people, and I've never said or believed that Japanese' special regard for the soul of technology is any different from others.
I'd hate to break this to you, but many people in Japan are really not that different from the Westerners.
Even after the great tsunami/earthquake, aside from many people realizing what matters most in life are beomg able to live close to their loved ones, I haven't heard that the pattern of their behaviors -- as far as what marketers are concerned -- has profoundly altered...
anyway, nice try by eet editors trying to write sth with depth.
but boooo... failure again.
better pick up your camera/notebook and do the dirty hard job.
digitimes editors are far more dedicated than you guys now.
Oh, who knows, Junko. I always remind myself that there isn't anything really new under the sun. My bet is, when books first came to be, and people could sit for hours in solitude lost in those pages, that others bemoaned the decline of live entertainment? Or live story telling?
When my siblings and I were growing up, our parents never had a TV in the house. By then, books were a good thing, TV was bad.
I'll certainly agree that the law of unintended consequences always rears its ugly head, but maybe we're getting a little too anxious about these things, just as previous generations were about the innovations of their time. That would be my guess.
she is just trying to play smart, ie. predicting future trend of human behavior.
lot's of thing changed, not many people knows how to grow wheat or corn nowadays. We sit in front of a PC monitor to make a living...
so what? when you done with this everything back to normal as 1000 years before.
some young kids might got submerged with internet/social network/games whatever for a while, but they ll back to normal soon or later realizing they need the real thing.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.