The advancement of technology these days is remarkable not just because of the achievement itself, but because of the way it is trickling down to the average consumer. Over the last 20 years, technology that was once restricted to either the very wealthy or to specialists from a certain field have been finding applications in day-to-day appliances. For decades, technical breakthroughs from Formula 1, rally racing etc have made their way into your Volkswagen parked outside, in the form of power steering, ceramic brakes, automatic gearboxes and the like. The same can be said of computers; today, the latest processors from Intel or GPU's from Nvidia can be found on your desktop or in your smartphone within a few months.
With this sudden ease of access to high end technology, it's not uncommon to find people oversmarting themselves.
"Oversmarting"? Yes, I just made that word up. It means to needlessly procure or use technology, be it electronics or computing, that one is either unable or incapable of using for its designed purpose.
This is a common issue these days, especially at the work place. If someones colleague buys a smartphone, it's not long before they are looking to 'outsmart' said colleague by getting something more expensive and feature rich. "Oh you got a Blackberry? Well I got a Blackberry with a higher number. Oh you did too? Mine is a Blackberry 'Curve'. Oh yours is a Blackberry 'Bold'? Well I've got... err... "
Lets talk about smartphones and Blackberrys. Look, not everyone is going to need a Blackberry. I for one have no need to be informed of work emails after office hours, nor do I have a network of Blackberry users to whom I can communicate using BBM. Hence, I won't be getting one. My father does need this facility, but he doesn't like phones with tiny buttons and tiny screens, so I've made sure he doesn't get one either. The same goes for smartphones, but this hasn't been followed at my workplace - first a deputy manager buys a Galaxy S2, then another manager gets the same phone, then another manager buys an iPhone 4, then another goes abroad and gets an unlocked iPhone 4S, and then two more managers get the Galaxy Note. Out of all these people, perhaps only two know how to use their phones properly i.e., more than just calling and texting. You don't buy a Galaxy Note if you're not going to use the Note's massive screen and the stylus that comes with it for notes, presentation edits etc; you might as well play table tennis with it instead.
Of course, after finally getting these dream phones, they have the arduous task of figuring out how to actually use them. Just the other day I noticed one of them fumbling around, desperately trying to figure out how to add a contact to his phonebook on his iPhone. Here's what he did:
1. Opens dialer, types the number.
2. Closes dialer, reopens and types again.
3. Calls number and quickly cuts.
4. Re-opens dialer, dials number again and deletes number.
5. Goes to call log, clicks on outgoing call and adds to phonebook.
6. Types name wrong at least ten times due to keyboard errors.
7. Adds the same number twice to same contact.
8. Deletes one number.
9. Calls number to make sure name shows up.
This isn't restricted to phones though. As I've mentioned before, there are now a lot of people who feel that a simple point-and-shoot camera will no longer suffice, even though the only pictures they take are the kind where they point it at themselves from arms length, or into a bathroom mirror. Never mind that they've never even used all the 'scene' modes on their tiny Canon, they believe that only a complicated DSLR will be able to handle their photographic creativity. This is as practical as buying a 42 inch LED TV for your toilet because you get bored while taking a dump. Try a newspaper, Richie Rich.
Of course, expensive items such as iPhones and fancy gadgets have always been perceived more as symbols of status rather than solely tools to increase productivity. We've seen it before in the form of MP's buying Range Rovers and those stripped down army jeeps with the big tyres just to cruise around Independence square real fast, or people who buy $2000 laptops so their kids can play games on them. However, if you're not one of those people, then you need to seriously look at your gadgets and think "Do I really need this, and if so, am I going to use it to its full potential?". If the answer to both of those questions is 'no', then for the love of technology, don't do it!
Remember, the Flintstones were just as cool as the Jetsons.