Frogs and Luddites

Feeling inspired today and I just had to get this out. This might end up being a series of thoughts about technology, so hold on tight.

I was talking to a friend this morning (Hi Emily) and she expressed to me some feelings that many in the tech community would likely label as a luddite perspective — being resistant to change. So I went off on a rant that I will try to capture and refine here to explain why that baffles me and probably will shed some light as to why there is such a divide between those who are “techies” and those who are not.

My first piece of hyperbole was a doozy — “As a member of a generation that has seen the most technological change ever…why resist now?” I went on to say that the people making the most noise right now about science and technology — be it computers, vaccines, electronic entertainment, mobile phones; those same people could NOT got back to 1980. I remember the technology of the 80's. I was proficient and had to teach my parents how to use it — program the VCR (ours was pretty cool), set the time on digital clocks, etc.

As a parent of four I understand that, once you have kids, life comes at you hard and fast. However, if you took your hands off the wheel, you can’t complain that you ended up somewhere you didn’t expect. The same people that complain, funded it all. People rushed out and bought cd players, dvd players, blu ray players, 3d TVs (lol); and use Netflix and YouTube every day. Some of the same people say to me “Oh, I can’t read a book on a tablet — I need to have them on paper”. There are some points in that argument, but those same points go to the people who like to watch old movies on VCRs and play old video games (and play them on tube tvs).

Then there’s this recurring idea — “Why are computers so complicated?” That’s a case of cause-and-effect right there. If you want your phone to read your mind, then that makes them MORE complicated. The next paragraph is for all the software developers out there…and it’s going to be a long one. (There will be frogs)

People want God-level engineering. Have you ever dissected anything? Say…a frog? Did you say to yourself “Wow, it’s so simple?”. Do you understand cellular biology? The immune system? Software systems are a crude imitation of these things. People want a device that is small, doesn’t need to be powered by a nuclear reactor, reads their mind, connects to whatever cheap technology they have lying around the house, and can be asked to do complex tasks non-verbally. It needs to interact with other devices all over the world, but not be subjected to viruses and mind-altering philosophies. Oh, and it cannot cost a fortune.

cog·ni·tive dis·so·nance

noun

PSYCHOLOGY

  1. the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

For a young “science”, the field of software development has done amazing things — to the point where people often make unreasonable demands. Some of my colleagues and I like to say “I can make it do anything, given enough time”. This is obviously not 100% true, but it highlights a lot about software development (and hardware development, though the line is getting very blurry). If you want me to write you a “TODO” list application. I can get you a prototype in minutes. If you need it to be reliable, it will take longer. If you want it to be cloud enabled, more time is needed. If you want it to run on your phone — more time. If you want to run it on all of your devices and let your friends add things to it, and it can take note of that movie screening time you looked at or the fact you always pick up your kid from practice at 4:30 pm on weekdays during the spring part of the school year…I can do that. It’s just going to take me some time…and some of that time is going to be me explaining to you that it can’t read your mind; and that, when your kid quits the team, it will keep reminding you until you tell it to stop…and that complexity is because you wanted it to be “easy”.

Phew! Rant over for now. Sorry to be quiet all this time — been swamped for over two months, plus procrastinating/overthinking before that. I think this topic has legs though, so let me know if you want to talk more.

Talk at/to you later,

Steve