Too much salt in your diet is not good for you. Yet, nothing I eat has too much salt. What’s the problem? It’s the cumulative amount and its effects which can imperil our health. No single food we eat has too much salt, but cumulatively we absorb too much salt which is, eventually, hazardous to our health.
We can say the same thing about sugar in its various forms, but let’s focus on modern technology and how convoluted and complicated it can be. No, not anything in particular, but the sum of everything tech– as with salt– can be hazardous to humanity.
I’ve been in the computer or computing device game for a long time, dating well back in the last century, back when DOS was a child, where CP/M ruled, and the command line interface was your friend. Today it’s all point and click or point and touch but that doesn’t make what we do with our growing number of devices less complicated. One could argue it has become more complicated because we have far more devices.
For example, every now and again a friend or associate or acquaintance will ask about my Mac backup strategy. I tell them it consists of multiple Macs, multiple external disk drives for each, a backup schedule, multiple applications, Time Machine, and, to get files off premise, iCloud and Amazon S3, with a tertiary online backup to a couple of the Linux virtual private services I maintain.
Before I’m finished with the description eyes glaze over and roll back into their heads. TL: DL (too long, didn’t listen). When that happens I just tell them to pay Apple a few bucks each month and use iCloud.
After digging through all the new gadgets at CES 2018 (Consumer Electronics Show), Nilay Patel says ‘everything is too complicated.’ He’s right. We’re unable to process all the changes to technology, unable to keep up with an ever increasing wave of advancements, and unable to incorporate many, if not most of them into our lives.
I made a list over the holidays of completely reasonable misconceptions about tech I heard from friends and family of all ages and interests in tech. These were questions I knew the answers to, but that always seemed to quickly spiral into an explanation of what I imagine Verge readers think of as foundational knowledge.
The list is striking to me because I get asked similar questions all the time which displays a remarkable amount of misconceptions prevalent among technology users.
This list was sort of funny when I first started making it, but over the past few days I’ve started to realize it’s a pretty damning indictment of the tech industry. Why doesn’t all this stuff work together better? Why should anyone know why search works in some apps and not others? Why do so many people need to remember so many passwords? Why have all these smart assistants actually made things more complicated?
Too much salt doesn’t come in any single food, but collectively, all the salt in all the foods we eat can be harmful to our health. That works with technology, too. Someone with an iPhone– a whiz on Messages or Facebook or Instagram– may not have any understanding of iCloud at all, and does not understand why everything isn’t just backed up automatically (it can, it should, but you still have to know what to click or touch). Someone who loves Amazon’s Echo and Alexa may not realize Siri performs many of the same functions on an iPhone or iPad.
It’s fun to look at new products and check out far-fetched concept touchscreen refrigerators, but I think the most important questions we can ask right now are actually the simplest: how does it work? How do you set it up? What happens when people don’t understand something? Do I need to create a new username and password? Is all of that secure? Does it work well with other things I’ve already bought?
1Password on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad has 325 entries. That’s far more than most, and likely contains a few dozen I no longer need, but managing all those elements takes time, effort, knowledge, and experience. Using an RSS reader might be the very best, most efficient and productive method to browse through dozens of websites, but other than yourself and a co-worker, how many average folk know what RSS is and does?
It’s not that any single technology or gadget is too complicated (though some are), but collectively they present a wall of change and management that goes far beyond our ability to use it all appropriately.