The human race has become spoiled. Every day, new and incredible technology debuts, and we just seem to brush it off as expected, or worse, a late arrival. So where did the magic go? What happened to the days when we would be blown away by a piece of wax that could record sounds? Or pictures that could move? Or the miracle of human flight? We expect things now. And that’s a crying shame. I’ve been contemplating writing a blog post like this for some time, and the fervor around today’s Apple announcement was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Today, with the iPhone 4S announcement, Apple redefined how interaction happened with a mobile phone. We can talk to it. It can talk to us. Not just text input, like we’ve seen with Android in the past, but something that to me, closely resembles artificial intelligence. “Siri, text my girlfriend that I’ll be home a bit late.” “Siri, what’s the weather going to be like in Napa Valley this weekend?” Sure, I could go through the trouble of unlocking my phone, opening the proper app, and finding out this info for myself, but that’s not the point here. The point is that there’s a whole new way of interacting with a phone that doesn’t require my eyes, my fingers or anything beyond activating Siri. Apple eliminated the need for a physical keyboard with the iPhone. Now they’re eliminating the need for the virtual one that replaced it. That’s magic, plain and simple.
The thing that also got glossed over as well is the implications that Siri and iOS 5 has for the vision impaired community. For the first time ever, they’ll have the same capabilities as those of us able-visioned people, without the need of expensive braille readout devices or proprietary apps. The ground has been leveled. And that’s huge. Apple should be commended for their contributions to society in this regard.
But what happened? We got caught up complaining that the new iPhone didn’t have an aluminum back and bigger screen, or that it wasn’t called the “iPhone 5”. Who the fuck do we think we are? Apple just presented yet another mind-blowing device with mind-blowing features. I think we’re spoiled little brats. We anticipated features that weren’t going to exist. And when those imaginary features weren’t announced, we were disappointed.
Need I remind you of the capabilities and features of a phone from 25 years ago?
Were we disappointed when the first photos were in black and white? No, that’s just what they were. How about video resolution when moving pictures were invented? Nah, we were just happy to have the capability. Now, nothing at all is enough. Speculation for what the iPhone 5 will have has already begun, as with the iPad 3. Sure, I’m always happy to speculate, but expecting something and then being disappointed when a product is revealed that doesn’t do everything under the sun is utterly ridiculous.
But my annoyance goes far beyond the iPhone 4S.
Just yesterday, I was in the airport after deplaning from my flight to Minneapolis when I overheard a fellow passenger talking about his beef with air travel. He just couldn’t believe that it would take 5 hours for a flight to get from Denver to Anchorage, Alaska. Did he forget the part where he could be in a chair, flying through the sky, and arrived there in ~2% of the time that it took only 100 years prior and with far less potential of death and dismemberment? I recalled a fantastic rant that Louis C.K. had for this exact expectation. You can see the video here:
I was inspired to write this post after recently seeing a video of the reactions people had when Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969. It was a mixture of awe, fear, and tears rolling down faces from raw emotion. Only 30 years later, as we send mission after mission into space, the luster of space travel had completely worn off. I wish I could have been alive then. I wish I could have seen what it felt like to witness the human race dramatically advancing as a species in one act.
But now we’re constantly presented with amazing advancements. We can cure previously incurable diseases. We can travel around the world in mere days. We can even communicate face-to-face with someone on the other side of the world just as if they were standing right next to us. It makes me sad to think that these kinds of achievements are just expected now. The World’s Fair from ago presented science and technology that would regularly impress and inspire with promise of a brave new future. There is no modern day equivalent of this. And that’s no surprise to me at all - we don’t get very impressed anymore.
I hope this reality changes. I hope that as a society, we can get excited again. I hope to see magic again, in my life.