For all the good technology does us, it sure can be a pain in the ass nowadays. It’s often expensive, three quarters of it doesn’t work with any of the stuff you already have out of the box and isn’t going to unless you have degrees in electronics, computer science and sorcery, it all needs unique passwords that are impossible to keep straight, so much of it now relies on apps that need configuring of their own, sometimes you have to pay for subscriptions on top of the hundreds or thousands you just shelled out before you can get a single moment’s use out of it…I could go on. And I say all of this as someone who, in spite of some of the things I’ve written, is pretty open to and reasonably decent at sorting out technology. There are millions of people, and I’m not just talking about the elderly ones, who have no idea how any of this stuff works and are pretty sure they don’t need it. And the tech industry is so far up its own ass that it doesn’t seem to notice or worse yet, care.
To a lot of you reading this, that probably seems obvious. This is because it is, or at least it should be. But so much tech, especially the useless tech, is pumped out based on the assumption that everyone in the universe is not only clambering for a smart bathroom, but can also easily get the whole shebang up and humming in five minutes, no sweat. But even though to you and I this should all fall under the category of duh, it still surprises me when somebody in the tech bubble not working for The Register points it out.
Most people have no idea how any of these things work, and are already hopelessly confused by the tech they have.
Think of the tech industry as being built on an ever-increasing number of assumptions: that you know what a computer is, that saying “enter your Wi-Fi password” means something to you, that you understand what an app is, that you have the desire to manage your Bluetooth device list, that you’ll figure out what USB-C dongles you need, and on and on.
What I’ve noticed recently is that the tech industry is starting to make these assumptions faster than anyone can reasonably be expected to keep up. I made a list over the holidays of completely reasonable misconceptions about tech I heard from friends and family of all ages and interests in tech. These were questions I knew the answers to, but that always seemed to quickly spiral into an explanation of what I imagine Verge readers think of as foundational knowledge.
This list was sort of funny when I first started making it, but over the past few days I’ve started to realize it’s a pretty damning indictment of the tech industry. Why doesn’t all this stuff work together better? Why should anyone know why search works in some apps and not others? Why do so many people need to remember so many passwords? Why have all these smart assistants actually made things more complicated?