There are two types of people in the world today: People who control technology and people who let technology control them. Rarely is there a middle ground. The gap between the two is ever widening because there is a good amount of money out there for companies that want to control your whole computing experience. Sadly, the people who control technology are far fewer in number than the number of people who let technology control them.
The most prominent example of this phenomenon is with cell phones. The iPhone has such a dominant grasp on our culture so many things are glossed over in the name of marketing hype, peer pressure and nice aesthetics. It doesn’t even matter that the hardware powering the latest iteration of iPhone is roughly equivalent to last years Windows Mobile and Android devices – it’s already old technology! It’s using “new” features borrowed from the last version of Android, but yet continues to dominate the market. If you take a close look it’s not hard to ascertain why. It’s the same reason RIM has held on so long, a kind of technical ‘peer pressure’ (“Oh, you don’t have a BBM messenger PIN?”, “Oh, you can’t Facetime with me?”, “Why won’t you follow me on Instagram?”). Nevermind that all of these technical feats are available on every platform with different names – the fact that your friends have this particular flavour and you don’t is enough for 90% of people to go out and plunk down a whack of cash for out-of-date hardware bundled with secret police spies-on-you software (Claim it doesn’t all you want, but how can you ever really know what’s going on under the hood? Especially in light of recent NSA revelations).
The digital revolution is here (it has been for almost a decade), and it’s getting bigger – not just physically, but bigger parts of our whole lives in general. If people decide to remain technologically illiterate they will be left behind. Left behind not just in a “hard to find a job” sense, but things like: stuck paying (and re-paying) for videos/music locked with “Digital Rights Management” (DRM), forced to watch more ads, becoming a prisoner to whatever company you clicked “I Agree” with. Your ‘common’ hardware/software will be the ones most susceptible to attack (your wetware will also be more susceptible to phishing and other scams).
A friend of mine works at a large media conglomerate retail store and we were having a discussion about just how many people upgrade cell phones without fully knowing or understanding what it is they’re getting (or even why they need it). Not even wilfully either, I think some people just feel overwhelmed and almost desperate to keep up, so in an attempt to do so just go out and get what their friends have (knowing they can get ‘support’ from them easier than manuals/call-centers if they need it). This also led to people coming in to the store and asking about “the iPhone with the most gee-bees” – having no idea what a gigabyte is, what it does, or what having more means – just that higher numbers are “better”. These are the people who let technology control them, and it’s about 80% of people (that statistical data provided by The Institute of My Own Meandering Experiences).
I feel stuck. On the one hand, I want nothing more than to show these people the other options, to teach them how to choose properly. On the other hand, no one is interested in learning, things are expected to “just work” (a euphemism for “don’t ask me to troubleshoot problems”). I understand; people have priorities other than learning what SSL is, or what open source is, or what meta-data is — but these things are creeping farther and farther into our lives, are you really OK with not knowing? Are you OK just throwing money at a problem until it “just works” again (regardless if it’s done right)?