Saving the Best for Last Competition: Be the second last kid on the block

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Saving the Best for Last Competition: Be the second last kid on the block

Change is inevitable and direct resistance to change is more or less futile. What I am going to argue here is that we should recognise that change is not always in our own interest and that trying to always stay ahead of the curve is both difficult and not necessarily rewarding. In other words, we should adopt change on our own terms and quite often that means is it in your interest to adopt new technology well after it has had time to settle down.

Look at the lessons from history – on many occasions, if you look at the first person to make a discovery, invent a religion or new political doctrine, their story quite often ended fairly nastily. Nailed to a cross, on top of a bonfire, in a prison, or just simply poor and scorned. Going right back, the first person in their tribe to change their diet and try the nice bright red mushrooms, probably didn't too well out of it. Those who waited 24 hours to see the results before following the trend probably lived a little longer.

Nowadays, we're encouraged to change the whole time – change energy supplier, change our mobile phone, follow fashion, change jobs. But for whose benefit is all this change? It's well known that such is the pace of delivery of much of the technology we consume, people who buy the brand new shiny computer packages or games are effectively buying patched up beta versions, and are then doing the final testing for the manufacturer, and paying top dollar for the privilege at that.

Mobile phones are a classic – how many people really need a mobile phone on which they can take photos like a camera, read a novel like a book, and connect to the office like a computer? When they own all of those products as well! And when you do have such a possession, you daren't take it out for fear of being mugged for it and losing all your documents, photos etc, and the phone itself at great cost. My phone cost 30 quid five years ago – it calls people, and even sends texts. I can set an alarm on it if I need to. It still works fine. If I lose it, no big deal, and I'll still have a watch, a paperback and a notebook (paper) to do all of the other things mentioned above.

Often this 'new' label, is just slapped on to get you to throw the old thing away, as otherwise you would have kept it for much longer. Take watching a film at home. The latest thing is downloading, apparently. This is manifestly no better to the average viewer than renting or buying a DVD, which in itself was not really a great step away from video cassettes. To say nothing of blu-ray or various other technological blandishments, which for most of what we watch is hardly noticeable in quality. If you take the argument a step further, what was wrong with just watching what you were interested in on the TV or at the cinema in the first place? Also, every time you buy a cutting edge technology you take a risk that it is the next Betamax, and your expensive toy will become worthless.

Or think about your computer. All I want from a computer is an office package, a few social things like Skype and Internet and the odd radio broadcast, and games with good gameplay. My last computer – over a decade old – did all of these perfectly well – I only had to get rid of it because everything else around it had become heavier, more demanding on graphics and processing power and what have you. Otherwise, I would have it still and be perfectly happy. What's more, there are a lot of people like me – someday someone will work this out, will produce the equivalent of Dacia or Kia cars in the form of computers, and will make a mint.

Not only that, often the new thing takes something away as well as what it brings. Sure it's nice to take ten photos where you would have taken one to get that perfect shot, but does it really replace the serendipity and spontaneity of taking the photo, and then reliving your holiday a few days after you get back when you see what the results are? Having a smartphone with your professional email on it can seem like a great idea – not tied to the office, not wasting time when the train is delayed. But then people get to realise that you're accessible all the time – you can just answer a mail in the evening, you will find an urgent piece of work sent to you at the weekend. And before you know it, you're having to justify why you're not availing yourself of the technology – it owns you.

On top of this, new obsessing is very bad for the environment. People don't want clothes that last anymore, so only a third of what ends up in charity shops can be resold – two thirds end up as rags, more or less. Ten years ago, two thirds could be reused. People don't expect electronic goods to last more than a year or two, so increasingly they can't be repaired – vacuum broken – throw it out, buy a new one. TV on the blink? Get a bigger screen. Most of these faults are very tiny problems with an actual repair cost in terms of components of under ten euros – but the capacity to handle it has gone, and the profession and especially the consumer has deskilled together in perfect harmony. People used to mend their own cars – try doing that now if you have even a relatively new model. OK, some times you maybe get an energy saving from something like a new fridge, but much technology just expands to fill the available energy source. Your TV uses much less energy than an old cathode ray screen, but now you have one in the kitchen, one in the bedroom and one in the lounge...

To be fair, being the last person to adopt technological change is probably not that smart. I worked with a manager once who refused to use a computer – this was back in 1998 but still – I think it is fair to say that it was probably a factor that got him pensioned off. It's hard to argue with your family or your work that not owning a mobile phone is a reasonable stance these days. But, there at least two positions we can take that can help us get a grip.

1) Don't buy a technology until it's reasonably bug free, and you can be sure it's here to stay, and that you are not paying for the novelty value. 2) Don't buy or adopt a technology unless you are sure that you and your entourage can handle all of its ramifications and will use it in a way that is beneficial to you – this is the doctrine of know yourself – if you install a super fast gaming computer, will you become one of those people chained to WOW or something similar?

And yes, to bring the example home, maybe that is why I am still on hootoo. I could have cycled through Myspace, Geocities, Facebook and whatever is coming next. But you know what – hootoo works for me, so until it stops working, I'm staying here.

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