Friday, 13 April 2012

Are we in another technology bubble?

This week Facebook bought a company with no source of revenue and 13 employees for $1 billion. Instagram, the company that allows you to alter your photos through cool filters, to look like they were really taken with an old polaroid and then upload them on to Facebook or other social network sites, was bought by Facebook. Facebook is gearing up for a floatation in May and is tipped to be valued at $100 billion. As Facebook is allowing people to customise their pages, this move is in line with the way things are going. I think Facebook will go the way Myspace has gone and everyone's Facebook page will become gaudy and reflect the appearance of a teenagers bedroom wall. I think that in 5 years time Facebook will be not as cool as it is now. I hate to sound like an old fart, but is this what we have come to? In the 1960's people wanted to be astronauts or racing drivers. Now you've made it because you made an app that turns a photo to look like a crappy old polaroid.

When I was in Art college, (Before PC's in the workspace and at home) we spent hours trying to create images that looked as though they were actually computer generated. These hand painted images were "Modern" in their appearance. Now we think we have been creative because we made an image look like it was old, but the software did it, not us. Now, Apple, would prefer everyone to do everything on their hardware, but the paradox is to sell these gadgets to the masses, the digital software that goes with it waters everything down to the lowest common denominator. "I downloaded an app that makes me draw like a child! Wow", "Look I made a letter look like it was hand crafted, Wow!", "Look I made a photo old!" Wow! Well done! Google is also relentless in its persuit of knowing the back end of a fart. Google is the global version of the Doomsday Book, where everything has been mapped and listed. Great. In this current digital age we live in, it is easy to assume that technological emancipation will liberate us, but with every step we are also burdened in some way. Before mobile phones, I could memorise over 10 phone numbers in my head, now they are not in my head, they are in my phone. Also, take Satellite Navigation. In stead of looking at landmarks to remember where you have driven, so that next time you will know the lay of the land and remember where to go, with Sat Nav you are told where to go and don't bother to remember where you have been. Now without the technology you cannot get there! GPS has saved many lives, where people have been lost in remote places, but it is also used to locate and kill people in Southern Sudan as well as other parts of the world affected by civil war.

I think we are in the second phase of a general technological move forward, that is now selling us crap that we don't need. In the 20th Century, with the invention of household appliances, washing machines, hoovers, fridges, cookers etc, the everyday tasks of the family became easier and with television life was made more enjoyable, but once everyone had a washing machine the large companies had to invent 'add ons' to these appliances that didn't make them any better, but just made us want a new appliance. Therefore a washing machine with a digital clock doesn't wash your clothes any better, but it creates a demand for something better that isn't really any better than the washing machine you already have.

I think this is the stage we have got to with the internet. The internet and PC's in every home and workplace have transformed our lives in ways we wouldn't have otherwise imagined. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Apple produce the new ipod six months after the previous one. It is sold as a "Game Changing" device, and six months later a new one is released, rendering the old one useless. The gadgets are made, not to transform your life, they are made to push products. I think we are in this second phase of the internet where we have totally lost sight of the 'advantage' that it brings. For me, nothing REALLY NEW is being created at the moment. It is a lack of ideas that is driving current tech sales. It is all soup at the moment. Remember why we all bought a digital camera? They took very clear high resolution images, that could be edited and filed on our PC's. Now I can make those images look like they were taken with an old Polaroid?

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