Tuesday, March 27, 2007
From iPods to Nespresso pods
Do you remember sitting on swings on porches and radios playing from open windows on a balmy summer evening? Do you recall going to movies on Saturday afternoon with a group of friends, to catch a show? Or perhaps, just sitting around a common table at the cafeteria at work, trading stories with colleagues over a pot of coffee? If you savor any of such memories, you're at risk of being obsolete. We lost porches to air-conditioning, and the night streets became unsafe. When I grew up in Brooklyn, you could walk the length of 101st St. and listen to the Dodgers play, without having a radio. Today, listening is done individually through headphones or ear-buds; no longer the sounds of baseball running up and down "the block." Going to the movies with friends: why? Why not stay home by ourselves and watch another DVD? In today's Financial Times, Stefan Stern tells us that coffee clatches are the next tradition to fall to the march of technology, as the Nespresso pod has made it easier to sit in your cubicle and drink solo, than to spend time in a group. Stern is concerned about the erosion of "culture" as a result of these technological advances, and I think that he is right. This is not a neo-Luddite reaction, but rather a concern for how and where we get together and what the implications are for the flow of ideas, and the bonding of friends. In fact, if the "soloization of the individual" can be considered a "technological trajectory," then each of these "transformations" mentioned above might well be considered S curves underlying the overall "envelope" of progress that is isolating each from the other.