Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Slow Pace of Technology Today

Something I recently read stuck in my mind: that the pace of technology has slowed considerably in recent years.  The author pointed out that the twenty-year period from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s brought a whirlwind of change, and every couple of years there was some revolutionary new capability: the personal computer, networked computing, the Internet, cellular phones, mobile computing, and so on.   But in the past fifteen years or so, nothing of that magnitude has happened.

While progress has not ceased, its has been limited to making minor efficiency improvements: processor speeds are getting a little faster each year, display resolution a little better, network speed a little faster, components a little smaller, etc.  But no new device has come out that has changed the way that people interact with technology in any significant way, or extend it into any aspect of life in which it didn’t previously exist. That is, technology hasn’t delivered anything truly impressive or impactful in more than a decade now.

It may be that we have reached a point where the core technology – the computer – has been fully extended.  It is as fast, as small, as portable, as connected, etc. as it needs to be for any functional purpose.  Engineers are out of ideas for new ways to apply it – or at least, new ways that are meaningful to the market, or at least valuable enough for the majority of people to see it as a must-have device or capability.

And in daily life, there does seem to be a certain ennui and even distaste for technology – the tendency of people to question the value of technological advances and even seek to moderate their technology consumption, questioning if it is really worth the money, time, and attention to adopt the latest fads, or even continue using previous fads once their novelty has worn off.

I’ve looked for examples to the contrary, and have thus far been unable to find anything that has been as impactful.   The only thing that comes close is wearables – the Apple Watch, Google Glass, and FitBit – but even these technologies failed to have much of an impact.  They certainly haven’t become a must-have technology that makes their predecessor (the smartphone) obsolete, or even extended the capabilities in any meaningful way.

So I’m left without grounds to dispute – the pace of technology really has slowed, the really has been nothing new and revolutionary – and likely the next step, societally, is to find a more sensible integration of technology into life – which means questioning the value that technology affords.   That, at least, seems a refreshing notion.

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