Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why'd ya have to go make things so complicated!

I have to say, we as humans make our lives more complicated than it has to be. I have often thought about this, and today I feel the need to explore this theory, or thought process and see where it takes me. In general, life has become more complex, each generation deals with a higher level of complexity than the last. The generation gaps are increasing at an exponential rate. As technology improves, and therefore becomes more complex, so do our lives. Looking back at my own parents, they never had any concerns regarding the speed of their computer, or the speed of their wireless network, or even their phone. Back then, the only thing a male wanted that involved speed, was a car. This is still true today, except we now have tacked on additional devices and status symbols that need to be the latest and greatest if you are going to be anyone in a world full of every-ones and no ones. Which brings me to another point, in a world with an ever increasing population, it is becoming harder and harder to stand out in a crowd… to be unique. Isn’t that what we all are striving for, uniqueness. Look at the automobile industry for instance; there just simply are not enough makes and models out there to keep the adolescent searcher of uniqueness satisfied. The individual takes a perfectly good car, (one that the auto manufacture has spent millions of dollars fine tuning and researching the design to be reliable), and then he or she tears it apart so that it will be unique, one of a kind, one that shouts… “I am not like everyone else”. Unfortunately, taste and style is not uniform, and there is no law that says tacky is illegal. This type of behavior screams, “I am trying to find my own voice”. In a world full of multiple media outlets that tell us what we are to look like, how we are live, and what is “normal”; it is becoming harder and harder to understand and know what is right, and what is true. I foresee this becoming a greater problem as the population grows.

Life, in general, is more complicated. I seem to spend more time fixing life’s amenities that are suppose to make our world easier, and less time enjoying them. These luxuries of life are very temperamental, and if you know me, you probably are guessing that I am referring to my job. Not so, I am referring to my own personal equipment that always seems to break. I can spend on an average day, 30 minutes to an hour fixing something that is not working properly. For example, last night, I finished my taxes and went to submit them using turbo tax. This is supposed to simplify my life mind you. Where do I begin, first the software itself. I wasted so much time trying to figure out which forms would be provided to me if I paid online or mailed a check myself, and then I find out that I need to pay an additional 34.95 for another state tax package, plus 19.95 for each filing, not to mention 75 for the software itself… is life easier? Or even a better question would be, is it worth the added cost for the supposed peace and ease it is suppose to bring? After fighting with my printer that would not sync up correctly over my wireless network, which seems to always fail when I need it the most, I crashed my blue tooth keyboard and mouse which required a forced reboot… why you ask? Kind of an interesting scenario to face, one I never really could have foreseen until last night, especially when I needed everything to work the most. To explain this better I need to go back in time. Picture this, new computer, and with it, the desire to use the latest and greatest technological gadgets available to go with it. To simplify my life and make things easier/cleaner, I bought a blue tooth mouse and keyboard. No wire, lots of features, the doggone thing even tells me what the temperature in my room is. So… out with the old, in with the new. I dumped my archaic keyboard and mouse; which had, if you can believe it, wires!

So, back to my story, after fighting with my wireless network for an hour, I finally got the printer to work. I then proceeded to go and print out the tax forms, which I was still uncertain about. While I am doing this, I also begin to electronically submit my taxes. So when it comes to the final save and print, a function that basically requires me to click yes once and all would be saved; something happened, my mouse and keyboard stop responding. After doing a couple of diagnoses hard ware tricks, I find out that the Bluetooth mouse and keyboard are no longer connected to my pc, why…only the pc god knows why. So here I am, ready to finally proceed and finish my taxes that took more time than it would have if I’d have done my taxes by hand. And why didn’t I just give up and do so; once you are in this deep, there is no turning back, not to mention I was in the hole 150 bucks with tax software… There was no way I was going to give up now. After unplugging and re-plugging, trying to reconnect and synchronize the devices, all of which proved fruitless; I finally decide it is time for the fix all cure for everything, a reboot… But wait, there are 2 programs open windows tells me, one of which is, you guessed it, Turbo Tax! Of course it needs to be saved. “Before shutting down windows, please click ok to save progress in Turbo Tax”, windows tells me. Do you know how painful that is, to see hours of work hinge on such a simple task as clicking the mouse… ONCE, meanwhile in the back of my mind, I know that the only way to fix the problem requires a reboot, which will cause me to loose everything I had done. To be so completely helpless, and not be able to do anything about it! It was almost like not having any arms. So I think, wait, just plug in your old mouse or keyboard… oh yeah, you dumped those “useless devices”… smart!
Are you following me thus far? Needless to say, all these devices that are suppose to simplify my life, made things very complicated for me at 12:30 last night.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, why is it a natural tendency for humans to overly complicate their lives… I know I am not the only one out there that faces this. Life can not go on now if we don’t have access to our email 24/7, and email didn’t exist 14 years ago. This is something that is so new, that there are generations that don’t even know what it is, and yet it is life threatening for others of the younger generations. Email was created as a means to simplify our lives, but all it has done is create another leash and hassle that encompasses more of our time. It used to be if you didn’t answer your phone, you were not at home. Not a big deal, then came the answering machine, again you still could ignore the call, except now you are required to call the person back, why? Because they left a message. This was the proverbial foot in the door. Then came the cell phones, no longer could you ignore calls, it was expected that you would have your phone on you, so if you did ignore the call, you were not the only one who knew it.
This is the leash I refer to. Pagers’ were the slippery slope, almost like the answering machine of house lines. All they did was require a return call, when it was possible or convenient. Cell phones are probably the most handiest and intrusive technology today. They are life savers when you need them, and they create stress when you don’t. You are always reachable… always. This leaves little space for privacy. I tend to laugh at the person that always has the quick answer to this problem, “well you could always turn off your phone”. Obviously they use their phone for emergencies and the occasional discussion when they find it convenient, otherwise they never use it. In the real world, such an act would cause massive hysteria, for example. If you wanted to leave it at home for a week, people would call the police thinking you are dead. Don’t answer your phone for a couple of days, and friends and family members get livid. The only way you can get away with turning off your phone, is telling those that call you regularly that you are turning off your phone. When I have been on vacation, I have to change my voicemail, send out emails and create auto-responses, notify all family and friends… that way no one panics when I am unreachable for a week. Then again, everyone knows where you are… not that I need to hide mind you, it is the feeling one gets when they realize they have lost a certain level of privacy. I am guilty, I will admit it, I get my emails to my phone, do I truly need it, I think so. What did I do 5 years ago? Life has taken a turn towards the tech age, and if you are not onboard, you are left in the dust of the information supper highway. I still see the occasional resume come through where someone professes to be proficient with emailing… a skill they are very proud of. That right here shows a generation gap, and also illustrates a switch in the job sector. Knowing how to “email” is mandatory in the working world, not a skill that puts you above the rest of your competitors. Although it is illegal to ask someone for their DOB in an application, sometimes they show their age without ever telling it, especially when you read the skills they are proficient in. How can one truly be knowledgeable in internet browsing, I really wish I could have interviewed that one…

In conclusion, has life improved with all these new luxuries... sorta. As a final thought, I decided my remote control is the best example of this rant. As everyone who owns a tv/dvd/cable box knows, remote controls start piling on one another. You are constantly going from one to another to make all the equipment work, of course this all hinges on if you can remember which remote goes to which electronic device. So in order to, once again, "simplify" my life, I got a universal remote. Oh how simplified it was going to make my equipment...
As it turns out, getting this stupid thing to work properly was more work than switching between remotes. I just had to update the software and firmware the other night, I then had to reprogram the built in actions to fit a new configuration. After all was said and done, including the relearning curve I needed to go through due to the fact I had not used the "simple" programming software in months, it took about an hour and half... Is this really simpler? The thing constantly needs to be charged, and as often as it gets used, it hardly seems worth it. Has life gotten better than it was 20, 30, or even 40 years ago… with the exception of the 70’s era, I would say that question is subjective. I guess it all depends on how much one embraces the changes and the trends. We all need to change to a certain degree, to keep up; but that doesn’t mean we need to take our work home with us... I wait for the day when they create a switch in the back of our heads that allows us to truly “switch off”.


BanAnna said...

Now I know what to get you for your birthday--a phoneless cord!

Unknown said...

Great thoughts. I was in the process of posting a recap of a session I attended at Burton Group Catalyst Conference which talks about your point on cell phones:
Is it okay if I quote and link to you in my post?

Anonymous said...

Yes, by all means. Thanks and I hope that I am not responding too late, I usually don't check comments this far back.