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December 11, 2017

The Evolution of the User

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

The gizmos we have today would be marvels 50 years ago. I can’t imagine explaining to my 1960s Grandmother all the miraculous things a smartphone could do. She just wouldn’t believe so much could be packed into the device the size of a cigarette case. (That’s a 1960s reference.)

No, the big difference isn’t in technology, it’s in the users.

Early technology was run by geniuses from the mathematics or physics departments. They were engineers, nerds in white lab coats with pen packs and horn-rimmed glasses. They knew their stuff.

Then came the hobbyists of the 1970s and 1980s. They were followed by the business people, folks who needed computers to help automate office tasks and stay competitive in the 1980s and 1990s.

In the late 1990s, computers and technology grabbed a foothold in the home. It wasn’t easy, but as many gazillions of AOL CDs proved — 10,000 hours online free! — people wanted a PC. The Internet was in its heydey, wild and free. Online shopping was risky and people were cautious with it.

Smartphones exploded in the late 2000s, offering mobile connectivity. It took a while to get right; even Apple’s iPhone launch in 2007 was a bit weak. Still, people got up to speed in no time.

When Apple proved that the technology that folks wanted could be packed into a cell phone, they created the next line of technology user: the self-absorbed consumer. Indeed, we’ve come a long way from the pioneering scientist.

Technology is marvelous. Yes, Grandma, they can pack all that stuff inside that tiny box. But rather than use it for knowledge and wisdom, which was the theme of those “technology of the future” TV shows way back when, the technology of today helps market witless users as customers.

Yes, it’s possible to use your smartphone to see when and where the Battle of Hastings took place, but the typical user would rather investigate some must-have product they saw advertised on Facebook. The ad says, “I need this,” which means it’s highly desired and useful, the perfect thing to sell to a witless crowd of advanced technology users who don’t want to enrich themselves with knowledge, but rather with consumer goods.

It turns out life in the digital century is about popularity. How many “likes” did my post get? How many viewers watched my YouTube channel? If anything, technology has exposed the human race as a society of attention whores and egotists. They willing give up precious time to suckle on the teats of huge corporations, where they are transformed into a desireable marketing base.

Not everyone is consumed with consumerism, however. The engineer, hobbyist, business person, and enthusiast still exist. Their numbers are probably the same, percentage-wise. Yet, because technology is now easy-to-use and ubiquitous, the deadly sins have taken the wheel. Technology has met its ultimate user.

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