Technology Costs and Benefits
How has technology delighted or failed you? Are you doing cartwheels about your personal computer, mobile smartphone, TV, audio system or central air conditioning?
Or, like me, despite the greatest inventions, do you occasionally question technology’s cost, counting a gadget’s price, upkeep, warranties, downtime and loss of use?
Derived from the early 17th century Greek (tekhnologia, meaning “systematic treatment” and tekhe, referring to “art and craft” plus logia, “logic”), we usually think that technology is the application of science resulting in tools, systems and services bringing us pleasure, reduced physical and mental labor, along with its negative consequences.
For example, the railroad system replaced butt pain riding a stagecoach and reduced travel time. Autos brought increased control over leisure and mobility. We could choose to live in one city and travel elsewhere for work. Vacations became more varied and pleasurable as we visited new and wondrous places.
Along with these and other benefits, of course, came smog, the high cost of a national highway system and thousands of deaths on the road each year. Costs reduced the benefits of auto technology. Despite the added burdens of car payments, gas, upkeep and insurance, most Americans believe that benefits exceed the costs of transportation freedom, the prosperity of the auto industry and the personal pleasure of driving a vehicle.
Consumer Electronics Technologies
But what about computers, mobile phones, TV’s and the accumulating gadgets in our lives? What do they cost and do benefits justify them? Like autos, many people would argue these devices deliver benefits that far exceed their “costs,” although most people tend to think of initial “price” rather than “cost”—the lifetime pay-out for something.
Microsoft, Windows 7 and Cost of Technology
Installing Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest computer operating system, on my Dell Vista laptop, is a good example. Most often, I use my two Macs for business and personal use. But I purchased the Dell laptop two years ago to run business programs not available for the Mac.
A few days ago, I decided to upgrade the Vista machine to Windows 7. I had heard positive comments about Windows 7 and the laptop needed the updated operating system to run my business programs. Since purchasing and installing W7 on my Dell four days ago, I’ve spent at least 8 hours on the phone with techs in India, the Philippines and Redmond, Washington, correcting loss of wireless, corrupt files and other problems.
After paying for the upgrade (around $125), Microsoft techs have failed to fix the problems. That means Microsoft lost profit from the sale, costing them more in tech support than what I paid for the software. The 8 hours of my time also cost me plenty.
What’s amazing about the Microsoft story and technology costs today vs. years ago, is the ability of the tech, over the Internet in New Delhi, to take control of my computer hopefully to fix problems more quickly.
As I watched the techs struggle with the Dell’s problem, I could tell they were following standard fixes for a problem that required thinking outside the box. In other words, their technology training hindered their ability to think through a problem. Only one tech in the Philippines considered reinstalling the system by booting from the DVD.
In other words, technology is used to fix technology, comparable to a robot servicing your car or a humanoid driving a train. Technology chasing technology. There’s also increasing concern for the human factors, as Apple discovered at one of their Chinese suppliers that manufactures iPads.
Moreover, the effects on humans of video games, tablet computers and mobile phones aren’t well understood. Consuming excessive electronics products may have negative consequences on humans. In the end, society will decide how much technology is worth. Then we’ll have a better understanding of its true costs and benefits.
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