I’ve been running technology businesses for the past 10 years and I’m more excited than ever about what technology can do for mankind as a species, but I think it’s also given me some insights into what it’s not, and likely will never be.
From when I wake up in the morning, until I go to sleep in the early hours of the following morning, I’m never far from my laptop; either programming, doing UX, skyping, emailing, project managing. It goes with me everywhere I go, and I feel a little lost without it (like leaving the house and forgetting to put your pants on). This is a phycological flaw, but it’s also backed up by the impression that people are less than satisfied if they’re not able to contact me for more than 20 minutes. Technology has made life incredibly convenient… but is constant convenience in itself an inconvenience?
I sometimes think back to my childhood, which I’m very grateful to say was quite amazing. I had my passion for technology even then, but it was balanced with a rich sensory experience. I grew up in regional Australia, close to waterfalls, beaches, farms (that were the perfect place for camping and bonfires). To this day, a breeze, sound, the feel of sand or the smell of second hand book store will take me back there. The memories and experiences have a warmth to them.
My technology addiction back then was computer games, and I would play games through the night. Games like Space Quest, Kings Quest, Sam and Max, Baldur’s Gate. Back then the graphics were basic but the storylines were rich. I know this may sound like a ‘back in my day’, and I suppose in part it may be so, but it’s how I recall it.
I think a good comparison is my kindle compared to a second hand book. I really do love my kindle, every book I might want just a search away, a week of reading on a single charge and super small and lightweight. On paper (excuse the pun), it runs rings around a second hand book in almost all departments, but the experience of browsing a second hand book store, the smell and the feel of the books, the musing’s about who may have owned the book before me, and exploring a physical space filled organically with a finite number of books is a true sensory experience, and I think that’s what defines us as humans, and as individuals.
These days I make a conscious effort to balance the two sides of who I am and want to be. I try to have at least a few sessions every week in the complete absence of technology and convenience. I’ll dig through a second hand book store with a coffee in hand, play with my child, or explore the small side streets of Hanoi on my electric motorbike (and get completely lost with no access to google maps). These things define who I am.
In everything that I build as a technology professional, I keep this in mind. Technology should never get in the way of true human sensory experiences. It should be ubiquitous and enhance the expressions of who we are as people, while expediting the tedious.