It’s hard to keep up with technology, and how quickly it moves.
This past Christmas, I received a brand new iPod touch. There was nothing wrong with my first generation nano, but it was time for a change. I still don’t know how to use everything; as of today, I have figured out its music playing capabilities, and the internet function. As I was checking online for a comprehensive manual that would explain the other features (because one doesn’t come with the device), I noticed something.
The first iPod touch was released in September, 2007. Since that release, a new model has been released every year; four years later, we have my fourth generation device. I was a little taken aback. What could be so new that it merited a new release in twelve months for three years in a row?
The Apple website no longer carries information on the older models, so I went to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPod_Touch ) to look for answers. I found that what I own works faster than what was released last year. It has an extra camera. There’s a voice recorder, a high-definition video recorder and a “gyroscopic sensor which enables the device to recognize approximately how far, fast, and in which direction it has moved in space” (why this is needed, I don‘t know). What it does not have is an improved battery life, which was made weaker in the previous model to allow for the gadgets and gizmos. I learned quickly that in order for my device’s battery to last more than a day, I had to disconnect certain features; I had to turn off the WiFi and Bluetooth while I wasn’t using them, and reduce the brightness of my backlight. Furthermore, the internet, even when it tells me I’m connected, won’t always connect.
So I’m left wondering; why give me two cameras and a gyroscopic sensor when faults from previous generations haven’t been improved? My only answer comes from Robert Pirsig himself: “The stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep.” In other words, quantity is taking over quality; it’s more important to release a new batch of gadgets than to take time to improve faults. Nothing much has changed since Pirsig wrote his novel in 1974, except that the debate and its current champion is more clearly defined.
Pirsig defines the debate when he visit’s an auto-shop for repairs on his bike. The young mechanics do a rush job, and not only do they fail to fix the bike’s problems, but they end up causing more damage. At the end of the episode, he concludes that “Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted… When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things” (Pirsig, 25). These lines spoke to me and my iPod situation. It seems to me that Pirsig had incredible insight as to how people used and would use technology.
We are consumers, and technology seems to have matched our hunger for “what’s new” (it’s why my music player has internet access). But the cost of consumption is the competitiveness between companies. That competitiveness has translated into a rush, and the result is that no one has taken the time to explain that a gyroscopic sensor is basically a GPS. If the time that could be used on such explanations was instead allotted to improving the battery, that would be one thing; but more likely, the time is being spent on developing the fifth generation iTouch. There is a very real disconnect between consumers and the technology we use. If it’s new, it’s wanted; that seems to be enough. But technology is meant to connect us, and if we aren’t connecting to the device itself as we fail to understand every function available to us through it, isn’t that a problem?
Pirsig’s solution is to learn the mechanics of a motorcycle. The solution is a little hard to take-up in today’s society. We move too fast. By the time I learn the mechanics of a touch screen, the technology could be outdated. Instead, we have to rely on the engineers themselves. But with quantity winning over quality, where does that leave us?