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Harbinger of doom. A paradigm shift in our relationship with technology.

Harbinger of doom. A paradigm shift in our relationship with technology.

Ahh technology. The dreamy 1950s paradise view of technology’s glorious future. Obedient humanoid robots rushing around on our behalf, doing the house work and chores, whilst the liberated owner whiled away the hours barking commands at these industrious tin cans and indulging in virtual entertainment.

Technology
By David Jacklin

Saturday 4 August 2018, 09:00AM


Our modern obsession with the smartphone. Photo: Gian Cescon

Our modern obsession with the smartphone. Photo: Gian Cescon

Hold on a minute. What happened to this processor-driven paradise? In stark contrast to this euphoric ideal our workload has exponentially expanded and our time has been entirely usurped by the use of modern technology in both the home and workspace. The slave has become the master.

Try to re-imagine the pace of life before the advent of the internet and email. Exactly what did we do all day in the office whilst awaiting a response from a client by letter? For the truly impatient there was the type, print, scan and fax paraphernalia, only to then sit until we were good-and-ready in an ‘In Tray’ somewhere. Fast forward a mere 25 years, and now it’s standard practice to expect dozens of communications each day from the ‘always on’ client. Each one requesting the most minutiae of changes, and then another demanding to change it back, that entertain our Machiavellian overlords.

If the advent of the PC and operating system wasn’t enough, there has perhaps been an even more powerful paradigm shift in the way we now use and interact with technology. Like an incurable and highly contagious virus it has literally infected every minute of our waking lives.

If we trace this ‘technology enhanced lifestyle’ trend back to its origin, a jury would take no time to identify the culprit. The culpit, as it happens, is a genius. The culprit, as it happens, is an English industrial designer. It also happens that I met him once for a business meeting.

The man in question is Sir Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple. When Ive joined the then struggling computer manufacturer in 1992, he set about an entirely new approach to both product and user design which dramatically changed the direction and fortunes of the company.

Jony Ive was the inventor of the iMac, which was followed by the iPod. And here an irreversible path was laid. The iPod evolved rapidly into the iPhone, which, I am suggesting, changed the human relationship with technology forever. If the smartphone is our demanding new master, then like Frankenstein’s monster, they would all acknowledge and seek their creator, Sir Jony Ive. Sounds dramatic perhaps, but lets look at the facts.

Worldwide we currently have over 2.5 billion smartphone users.

In a 2017 study, almost half of all respondents to a global online survey claimed that they spent five or more hours per day on their smartphone. That’s a day and a half of every week.

The UK telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, did a recent national study which revealed that 37% of adults and 60% of teens admitted that they are highly addicted to their smartphone. A figure set to rise significantly as those teens becomes adults. And with the advent of the ‘Internet of Things’ the next generation will consider using their smartphone device to control almost every aspect of their life, including the majority of their social engagement, as the norm.

Jony Ive is an affable, but highly focused mastermind. To him, all he sees is design, both good and bad, and it comes far ahead of any commercial or social considerations. He informed me that he never user-tests his own product design. An incredible claim considering he’s CDO of the world’s largest technology company. For him, it was his job, and his job alone to get it right. The accountable perfectionist for sure. At our meeting he was physically disturbed by a poorly designed conference phone that happened to be located on a nearby table, and he simply couldn’t continue our conversation until he had removed it from sight.

It makes you wonder what this man considers when he sees such extensive overuse of his product by the minions every time he steps foot in any public arena? Does Mr Ive have restless nights pondering the digital monster he has created?

History may prove that I had a rather charming and amiable encounter with the most unintentional harbinger of our doom.

Life seemed far easier when Apple and Blackberry were humble fruits.

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