Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Well, I finally did it.

In 2011, I got a Windows Phone because my company paid for it. In Jan 2013, I upgraded to a Windows Phone 8 because the company paid for it again. I’m all for getting free phones. I was happy with my smart phone.

But over time, my Windows Phone started to have major problems:

  • For some reason, after a few days, the screen wouldn’t rotate when I rotated the device. I don’t know why it would do this, it just wouldn’t.
  • For some other reason, after a while, the volume wouldn’t adjust up or down. I’d be listening to a podcast and try to make it louder or quieter, and it wouldn’t change. To fix both of these I had to turn the phone off and turn it back on.
  • The phone wouldn’t upgrade to the newest operating system, Windows 8.1.
  • I couldn’t install new apps. It would always say it couldn’t connect to the App Store to verify my account.
  • The phone got really slow when loading apps, and the apps wouldn’t even load 1/4 of the time.
  • I dropped the phone and cracked the screen, leaving a huge thumbprint-sized blob of dead (black) pixels in the corner.

So yeah, it was time to get a new one.

I had delayed getting a new iPhone for years. In fact, the first time I went to the AT&T store, they wouldn’t let me pay for it all at once. The only option they had was to finance it over two years. Huh? That’s ridiculous.

I went to the Apple store a few times to buy it outright, but it was never in stock. I had to order it online and wait a month for it to arrive.

But finally it did. And I’m like “What was I think waiting so long?”

I love my new iPhone. It works so much better. The apps load fast. The app store works. The screen rotates. The volume adjusts. There are plenty of apps. And it has fingerprint unlock for my thumb!

I didn’t think there was that much of a difference between the iPhone and the Windows Phone. But there is. I never thought I would be a believer but I have been swept away by the device.

It’s not perfect, there are things I don’t like about it and were better on Windows Phone (e.g., figuring out my contacts was better on the Windows Phone, the stopwatch apps in the App Store are worse than the simple one on the Windows Phone), but I am happy with my purchase.

So much so that I am writing a blog post about it. I can’t believe I’m shilling for Apple. Blargh to that.

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You know, technology is great… most of the time. It’s great at making things easier, and over the past ten years, it’s been great at connecting me to other people with social networks. This blog gets almost no traffic, but on the other hand sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been fantastic for letting me keep up-to-date with others. It wouldn’t be possible to not feel a little homesick if it weren’t for those.

But lately, I think that the geeks designing the technology have gotten things wrong. Almost totally wrong.

Why would I, a geek, say that?

One of the things I value is diversity of experience. We have a diverse group of people at work. I like going to new places and trying different restaurants. I listen to people who think differently than I do because they think differently than me, not in spite of it. If I were to do the same things over and over, I would get stuck in a rut and think the same things over and over again.

I bring this up because of my belief in technology’s complete and utter failure – despite the promises of the technoclass (of which I am a member) – to deliver on its promise of an enlightened utopia based on knowledge. People would shed their shortsighted opinions and beliefs, do a little research on the Internet, and come to a correct understanding of everything. Ignorance would slowly, slowly fade as people who don’t use it would eventually give way to the next generation.

Yet that hasn’t happened.

Why hasn’t technology delivered the enlightened utopia Silicon Valley keeps promising? I think it’s because even though we have all this fantastic technology, it’s still being used by people. And people have inherent biases and make all sorts of cognitive errors. I don’t have time or energy to describe them all.

You see, if we hold a strong political belief, even if it’s wrong, we don’t browse the Internet to find out the truth of whether or not something is correct. Instead, we seek out the websites and articles that confirm our opinions and discard the evidence that contradicts it. This is how we resolve our cognitive dissonance – with confirmation bias (the tendency to believe the evidence that confirms our beliefs and disregard the evidence that contradicts it).

Technology has made it easy for small fringe groups to spread their message. Lesser fringe groups can do the same, and people who believe all these things can easily find it. Thus, the enlightened utopia will never occur unless the motivation to stop believing wrong things is stronger than the reinforcement people get by believing them. That is a tall order.

And that brings me to technology.

When I click ‘Like’ on someone’s comment, or their status update; or, when I click on an article to read like Business Insider, what does Facebook do? They show me more status updates from those people and more links from Business Insider. In other words, Facebook thinks “Well, since you like it, we’re going to deliver more of it to you.”

When I browse for something on Amazon, they send me an email the next day with “We think you’ll like these products because you previously searched for a similar one.”

Twitter and Gmail give me ads based upon what I like, although Facebook is the worst offender.

I bring all this up because all of these services, while claiming to give me more of what I demand, are just reinforcing what I already believe. They are making my exposure to the outside world less diverse, not more diverse. They are feeding into my confirmation bias and resolving any cognitive dissonance by showing me the same thing every day. I don’t get to see the status updates of other friends because Facebook thinks I want to see the same people. I don’t, I want to see them all. I can change Facebook’s settings but they still reset it every once in a while.

I think technology is failing us that way.

Just now, I went to Bing images to do a search and it said “Sign in to build a customized experience just for you.” I said no. I don’t want a customized experience because while they are trying to tailor it for me, that’s what I want to avoid. I need a different point of view in order to expand my mind. Otherwise, I just do the same thing over and over.

I think that’s where tech companies have gone wrong. In the race to deliver the customized experience and make people feel warm and fuzzy because of familiarity, they (we) are doing a disservice to people by not showing them new things.

And new things is how we broaden the mind.

The last thing I want is for mine to get too shallow.

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I have had my current phone – a Windows Phone 8 – for over three years. There’s a few problems with it:

  • For some reason, the operating system won’t upgrade. The Windows 8.1 update has been available for many months but my phone never tells me to upgrade, nor do it automatically. I don’t know why.

  • I can’t download new apps. Every time I try, it says it can’t connect to the store to get a new app. So I’m stuck with what I have.

  • A few months ago I dropped my phone, cracking the screen. There are also big black blotches in the corner, indicating that the pixels are dead.

I’ve resisted getting a new phone because I got this one and my previous one from work, so I am conditioned to getting free phones. But I finally broke down a couple of weeks ago and headed to my local AT&T store to get a new one.

I was 2/3 of the way through the process of getting a new iPhone 5s when they told me how much it would be. I forget the cost, but it was something like $500 spread out over 24 months.

“Huh?” I said. “Can’t I get a reduced price for signing up for a two-year contract or something?”

“Oh, we don’t do that anymore,” they said at the store. “Now, we spread the price of the phone over two years so you pay in installments.”

I said I don’t want to pay in installments, I wanted to pay for it all at once. Why would I want to spread it out? I asked to do that, and I told me I couldn’t do it at that store. Instead, I either had to get a phone directly from the Apple store or from another AT&T store a few miles away. I said I would do that and walked out. When I walked out of the store, I fully intended to get a new phone.

Except I didn’t.

I don’t really like AT&T. Their international calling plans are way too expensive. I went home and started comparing plans with Sprint but I got bogged down. Comparing cell phone plans is difficult, and they do this on purpose (it makes it harder to switch companies).

So at this point, I still have a cracked-screen Windows 8 phone. I need to get a new one, and I still probably will.

But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it earlier.

Maybe next time.

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