Is there any likelihood of a backlash to today’s technology?

Posted on March 29, 2010


On a recent shopping trip I ran across the latest device for mobile-phone users. It was an old-fashioned-looking telephone receiver that plugs into a cell phone to return the owner to hands-on mobile conversations. You could even rest the receiver on your shoulder to feel the revival of that wonderful neck strain that landlines offer.

It stopped me in mid-Bluetooth conversation as I began to wonder if the kind of temperate backlash that raised demand for vinyl records in recent years might be spreading to other technologies. Will we be decorating our wood-and-metal desktops with high-fashion Rolodexes again? Tricked-out calculators? How about designer bookcases or a neon-trimmed dictionary?

While some still may yearn for the solidity of a fax machine or the versatility of a VCR, it’s just not gonna happen. We won’t be backing away from today’s technology, and the reason is simply that it works so well. The tech we tote today is not a fad or an accessory. It’s life-changing and barrier-breaking. We shop online now, not just because our friends are doing it, but because it makes life so much easier–and greener, to boot. We love our mobile phones and apps because they can keep us connected, alert us to dangerous situations, update us on news, entertain us, and replace stamps and envelopes.

The next steps in tech will do even more to help us live, work and play more efficiently and enjoyably. With unified communications systems, we now can hear our e-mail on the phone or sort and read our voicemail on a computer. IMs can instantly be converted to videoconferences and a single phone number will ring everywhere and anywhere we want to pick it up.

The popularity of 3-D movies in the theater will very soon spread into the living room as consumers buy 3-D TVs and cable networks reach out with 3D broadcasts.

Electronic books and periodicals continue to roll out in many new forms, kindling a revolution in easy reading comparable to the introduction of the paperback. We can order hundreds of books from our favorite online shop and download them all to a single device. Laying on the beach, we simply read ink on screens instead of ink on paper now.

Instead of burning our videos and PowerPoints to DVDs and couriering them to family and friends, we can send them digitally online through services that will deliver a file weighing hundreds of megabytes faster than we could address a FedEx label.

This is an amazing time for communications technology. Unlike the bubble era of the faddish ’90s and early 2000s, it’s rare to hear of a tech company going under these days. It’s the institutions that we once thought were irreplaceable that suddenly find their business models crumbling–from the Postal Service to the local newspaper to the library. Today, perhaps we should be more concerned about cracked concrete foundations than effervescent bubbles.