Friday, July 20, 2007

Think Different

I would call it one of the most anticipated launches in recent history, the iPhone had high expectations of being revolutionary. The success of the iPod is a hard act
to follow, but thus far, the iPhone is positioned as the "hippest consumer electronic device in years", probably since the iPod. Bruce Weinstein of BusinessWeek would have you believe that a lot is wrong with the iPhone and its effect on how people interact today. In this article, he shows how the iPhone leads to what he calls iSolation.

Personally, I'm torn by the article. In many ways, I feel that we live in a world obsessed with instant gratification. We're connected to everyone we know and everything we do by technology. In some ways we neglect our current surroundings, for instance, mothers use technology as a babysitter. Place the kid in front of the TV or a computer game and they'll be amused for hours. Another problem is the parent that is on their cellphone and has their kid in tow. Growing up, my mother took every opportunity she could to "lock" us in the car and talk to us. The music was turned down and that was conversation time. Moreover, as kids we same "We-Songs". I'm not sure that mentality still exists.

Bruce points out that this connection impairs our ability to function as a community, but I'd argue that it has simply changed the community we live in. We have become a world of networking sites: Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn. The world as we know it has changed. Social interaction has changed. I would advocate that I'm better friends with those that partake in networking sites than I am with those that do not partake. Of course, I can't distinguish how much of the connection is because of working personalities. For instance, I try to stay in connection and so do they. Some people just don't have the desire.

Individual interaction is not what it used to be. Instead of holding one conversation, we've learned to multi-task and hold 3. The definition of community and the lines of a community have blurred. We may miss out on neighborhood barbeques, but I don't believe we miss out on community. We just live in different communities than our folks did. We are more connected today than ever before, which does have its pros and cons, but either way I don't think it's the fault of the iPhone. It's a result of the world we live in and the way we accept technology.

Bruce continues to note psychological health as a downfall of the iPhone. He believes that because we're constantly connected, we don't have time to daydream and be creative. But if you take this blog as a primary example, I am being creative. I write anything from random thoughts to poetry to opinions. It is this form of media that gives me the opportunity to openly express myself. Even he is circulating via the exact media that he condemns. We may be stimulated, but everyone knows when it's time for some personal downtime.

He specifies that the final cost of technology is the possibility of mortality and injury. Between people driving while talking on their cell phones and people listening to music while they cross the street, he is of the opinion that we are in greater danger in our everyday lives. On some level, this may be true. I researched and made a speech in college advocating the ban of cell phones while driving. It's true, some people can't multi-task. It's hard to advocate the use of cell phones when the evidence shows that they do influence actions, however there are those that act responsibly and take precautions. Furthermore, it would be hard to break people of the habit and luxury they've become accustomed. Stricter rules on hands free devices, in my opinion, is the best way to make the roads safer. In reference to banning electronics while crossing the street, I think that idea is preposterous. I don't want to say those not paying attention deserve to be harmed, but if you are crossing the street, you should be aware of your surroundings. This was the first lesson learned as a kid.

The call to action is to "Think Different", ironic as that is the Apple motto. Bruce does not blame corporate America for the resulting problems of the iPhone, the fault lies on individuals. What I think he fails to realize is that these "problems" are actually an effect of technology and the way it's consumed our lives. Granted a the root of the evil is the individual person, but we are raising a generation of kids that do not understand what it means to be without. Even I, at 25, don't remember life without TV. It's hard to envision 56K internet and I grew up with it. Bruce may advocate that the world should Think Different, but we already are. We're thinking different than what used to be.

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