Friday, August 22, 2008

A tool or a lifestyle?

25 years ago, computers were not on everyone's desk. Business people used paper, faxes, filing cabinets to perform their daily duties. Frequent visits to the water cooler, or the coffee spot was common.
Only last month, our building had an electrical outage. Everyone came out of their offices, wandered the halls, and asked the question, what happened? Everyone had such a blank look on the faces. No one knew what to do. Our reliance on computers is overwhelming.
Our computers are more than tool. A fax machine is a tool to communicate documents. Our computers are more of companion than a tool. We spend more time and look at more often than our significant other. Computers are a collections of tools that allows us to interact with all kinds of information. The amount of information that can pass between our computer and us is incredible. But, a lot of times, we get lost in that overload. Lost in replying to emails. Lost in the browsing the internet. Lost in social networking. We don't know where or what we looked at 5 minutes ago, and don't care. The computer is becoming more like TV. We don't care what we watch. It's a venue to hide, and shutoff our minds. And, talk about distractions. The popup notifications of emails is crazy. The current person's attention span is short enough, but add the popup notification of the emails, and the attention span shrinks to 5 seconds, or whenever an email comes in.
Don't get me wrong, I would be lost without them. But, the computer has become more a necessity rather than a tool. A tool can be replaced by another tool. But, just like someone's arm or leg, the computer can not be replaced so easy.
So, what's next in the evolution? Well, maybe something like Tom Cruise, in Minority Report, moving images and windows with a virtual reality hand pointer? No. But, maybe the convergence of the phone, fax, TV, music machine into 1 appliance? Probably. 1 box to interact with the world? Or should I say, a roaming profile, possibly stored on a USB key, or even on the internet, which contains all your contacts, favorite applications, images, favorite movies, and personal information? We're close. Hopefully nobody hacks our personal profile.

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