One of the aspects of modern technology that I do not particularly understand very well is the drive on the part of manufacturers and web designers to continually (and drastically) change their approach. This is one of the aspects of my own personality where my native conservatism comes to light, in that I’m not someone who likes to constantly change my approach to doing things. I like things to remain basically the same–certainly at times it is useful to add a few features, but by and large I am content to learn how to work within a system and then have that system remain more or less the same.
This is not to say that change is always unwelcome (even drastic change), rather it is to say that I dislike pointless change for the sake of change. I like there to be a reason for change that exists beyond: we need to keep our quarterly reports looking good by coming up with a new cell phone every three months, a new redesign of the webpage every three months, a new operating system every three years, and so on. It is my belief that change should reflect some kind of genuine need, rather than being forced upon for the sake of novelty, or manufactured controversy. If something can be made to last, why not let it last. Why force it to become obsolete? I can see the short term profit that comes from such thinking, but I do not see it as beneficial in the long run.
The view to the long run makes this sort of action appear very wasteful. If your cell phone is a brick after only three to six months, or your computer every year or two, and there is a constant push to replace what is obsolete with what is shiny and new, than what was last year’s ‘it’ item is this year’s junk. That junk must be either thrown away or recycled. If it is thrown away, than the materials used to make high technology items that are junk could very well be greatly harmful to the environment. Otherwise it might very well be harmful to the people who work with it in trying to recycle it for reuse. It might be worth examining just how much of a high-tech item can be recycled, and whether it is worth using expensive and rare materials in technology (to make it advanced) if they are designed to be worthless in a short time, especially if such materials are difficult or hazardous to reclaim and recycle.
Moving beyond a strictly material level, there is a great deal of waste on a human level. Why should we expect human beings to continually learn what will be quickly obsolete? How do we encourage a proper attitude towards education if everything we learn (be they computer languages or how to use a given webpage) is expected to be worthless quickly. Why waste time ever learning and never coming to any sort of wisdom. Growing in knowledge is supposed to be like building a house. If you increase in understanding, you can build for the future. What you learn is lasting and worthwhile, and can be useful in many fields outside of the original one. When what is learned for our modern culture is merely ephemeral and designed not to last at all, people fail to appreciate that which is lasting, and assume that lifetime learning is merely like being a hamster running in place in a treadmill, rather than being an academic journey with a destination.
It appears there is an unusual and dangerous dichotomy between our business and education culture and our nature as human beings. As human beings we are part of cycles that go back generations, and hopefully go forward generations. We are part of long-term plans, and we are creatures of habit. This is not always a bad thing–even if bad habits endure just as readily (perhaps more) as good habits. However, it appears that this aspect of our nature is being deliberately attacked in the service of short-term thinking, throwaway knowledge and culture and commercial items, and a fad-driven mindset that values nothing that is lasting, and neither makes nor desires anything to remain untroubled. It is as if there is a segment (and an important segment) of our societies and civilizations that desires to make people live constantly on the rapids. The water in rapids can be exciting, but it is shallow, and it is dangerous. There is something to be said for the deep and meandering river as being a better way to travel one’s life than shooting down the rapids until you die.
I want it said of me that I build something to last, something worth remembering and building upon, rather than merely wasting my time on this earth in what is frivolous and worthless and without lasting value. I am far less concerned with what profit or wealth I made in this life than what I left behind after me. For I believe we are designed for the long haul–made to last–not something that is here today and forgotten tomorrow. Therefore I try, as best as I am able, to handle whatever rapids come my way, but to seek the gentle waters, the more sustainable pace, the empty lands where I can spread my wings without having to always hurry to keep up with someone else. For life is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and it is not worth spending my time on that which will simply fade away and be forgotten, and which is designed to be replaced. For I am by nature a castle builder, not a cell phone maker, and I prefer that which is made to last, not made to scrap.