My Technophobe

Paspartout is a technophobe. She doesn’t just fear/avoid new technology (or what she refers to as all things ”touchy-swipey”), she’s a borderline Luddite – the Satnav sits in her lap (with the sound off and instructions relayed to me as I drive, with constant references to the oversized paper roadmap), my MacBook is viewed as unnecessary, Cloud Computing off-worldly, and the iPhone is her personal shuttle loom (getting her to answer it for me whilst we’re in the car is met with something akin to “aagh, don’t let the carrots touch the peas!”). Her own phone is still an old QWERTY Nokia – in fact, I recently bought her a new Nokia 3310 just so she could have some colour in her life! So, as you can probably imagine, getting her to embrace new technology is a somewhat Sisyphean struggle. Of course, by contrast, she’s a regular Facebook and email user, but enough of her contradictions.

The way I see it I have two choices – education or divorce (penal transportation has recently fallen out of favour, from what I hear). And isn’t that true of a lot of technology? We humans seem to have an almost bi-polar relationship with it. At one end of the spectrum there are those that embrace it just “because” (“gadget freak” gets bandied about in our house, though I prefer the term “early adopter”), and at the other we have the afore-mentioned Luddites. As for myself, I’d like to think I sit somewhere in between. In the interest of fence preservation, you understand.

So what is this resistance to change? I’m often faced with questions like “what’s the point?” and “why do I need to?” And you know, sometimes I’m not sure I have an answer. Well, OK, that’s not strictly true. You see, the bigger picture is actually pretty obvious to me: the more we experiment with technology, the better and more useful it will eventually become – the more able we are to address those issues previously left … well, unaddressed. Ultimately, it’s about improving our lot.

I think I understand where my Luddite is coming from, though. In the last couple of years I’ve seen a number of emerging technologies that frankly I struggle to see a valid, mainstream, purpose in (some wearables, for example, such as the Fin, Logbar’s Ring, etc.), but at the same time, I also see their development as absolutely necessary. Invention and imagination are both key in moving us forward from the future’s very own dark ages. And hopefully, there will be elements of those technologies that fall out into others that become more mainstream. At the same time, though, educating the market as to the need and/or benefit is as important as the experimentation itself. There has to be either uptake of that particular technology, or an ability to transfer portions of it directly into others, in order to move it forward.

Although, convincing people who aren’t natural early adopters, to take up new technology “just because” is a different matter. This is where my “but it’s cool” isn’t enough – you need a strategy. You need an answer to “why?” Whenever anyone asks me about that, I often reply with only one word – Velcro. What the invention of Velcro has proved is that a lot of other stuff – perhaps with a more easily understood application – falls out of the larger stuff. Thank you, NASA. Whilst the larger stuff might not have an obvious tangible benefit to most of us, there are benefits that affect the more mundane. Stuff like Velcro.

Although I sometimes think that divorce would be the less painful of the choices available to me, I’ve become rather attached to my Paspartout over the years, and so it looks as though my Sisyphean struggle is set to continue for the foreseeable future. If I’m honest, I don’t at all mind – just don’t tell the missus that.

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