Technology is miraculous and wonderful when it performs well. If your computer, smartphone, HD TV or even a toaster fails, however, you feel like throwing the darn things out a second story window or stomping on them. This is particularly true of Web-connected devices, especially when low-cost components fail, making them unusable.
As a online publisher, blogger and podcaster, I rely on computers, high speed broadband, wireless routers, Web servers, hosting accounts, website optimization services, cloud computing and lots of software. In other words, I’m technology dependent. More precisely, I’m Internet dependent. When connectivity drops, I’m dead in the water. Technology dependence is the rule for me, most businesses and individuals. And it comes at a cost.
The $55 Bad Hard Disk
Three days ago, a $55 bad hard drive on my iMac halted my business. It started first with wireless connectivity loss, then program crashes, followed by slow computer response, file corruption and, finally, a failed hard drive. After trying Disk Utility and TechTool Pro software fixes multiple times and re-installing the Mac operating system three times, it became clear my Mac’s hard disk had gone to HD Heaven.
I spent countless hours trying to fix the problem while losing hours of sleep. But the worst consequence of my failed hard drive was lost business productivity, a killer in online publishing. My technology dependence cost me far more than replacing a $55 hard disk. It interrupted my business and personal life and caused unnecessary stress.
Wireless Technology Dependence
Now that the iMac is operating flawlessly and the software 98% restored, I reflected on how technology–especially wireless tech–makes us vulnerable to business and individual disruptions in our lives–disruptions that cost money, time and affect our sanity.
When cell phones were primarily used for phone calls, getting disconnected or ruining the darn things by dropping them was a minor inconvenience.
How things have changed. We now carry in our pockets tiny, powerful computers used more for data processing and transmission than talking. Our mobile lives keep our wireless devices within nine feet of us 24/7 and many people can’t imagine living without them. Wireless technology dependence spreads across the globe as six billion people depend on reliable mobile phones for business, commerce and personal communications.
Data centers and cloud computing services (a $100 billion industry) circle the Earth connecting huge communication networks run by Google, Amazon and major enterprises. Back at home and in the office, smartphones, tablet computers and other wireless devices have added a new technology dependence factor. We’ve become mobile nomads, constantly in motion and dependent on the nearest cell tower or Internet server farm, as wireless spectrum becomes more scarce.
Meanwhile, unlike my iMac’s $55 solution, smartphones, growing like cats in heat, aren’t so easily fixed. With their greater functionality comes increased complexity.
Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants, spoke at TED in 2010 about how it evolves. In the video, he touches on technology dependence from early human history to today. It’s well worth viewing and you may also download a transcript.
As you listen to Kelley, reflect on how technology has evolved in your life and its benefits and costs.