A friend of this blogger made a suggestion this week about a topic that I’ve been nudging around in my head for about a year. A subject that touches our lives on many levels with varied results. The friend is a professional upgrader/fixer. In more conventional parlance, he’s an engineer. I’ve seen him plow through more than a few upgrades. He submitted some questions about upgrading that plenty of folks have probably silently asked themselves, too. (Especially when downloading and installing the latest version of their web browser or some tweak for their printer’s driver software.)
Since you’re reading this bluejayblog post from some sort of technological appliance, you’re aware that an operating system is necessary in order for you to use the gadget from which you’re reading these words. It might be phone software or it may be a Mac or Windows operating system. I remember working with MS-DOS on office workstations when computers started creeping into work environments. When computers started becoming affordable enough for home use, I got one for my den. It’s OS was Windows 95. I’m probably one of the few people who was happy with Windows 95. I don’t have a geek’s mind so I was tickled that I didn’t have to worry about file extentions and arcane file names that didn’t make sense to me. Besides that, the working environment of Windows 95 was more attractive and user friendly than MS-DOS.
As years passed, some of Microsoft’s later operating systems seemed clunky and were introduced simply with the idea of selling something new to consumers. I did like Windows 98 a whole lot. I’m still using Vista as I compose this post. Lots of people hate Vista. The same bunch who hated Windows 95, I think. Seriously, does anybody really want to use MS-DOS in today’s communications environment? It would be quaint like a Victrola in a world of iPods and MP3 players. Something you would drag out to astonish children, I suppose.
Obviously, the need for evolution presents itself constantly. Even Mother Nature saw fit to do so throughout the aeons. Something like motorized transportation comes about. A major upgrade from horse powered stage coaches and steam locomotives. But are cosmetic tweaks like new grill and tail light designs really improvements? How about 400 horsepower engines and SUVs? Are they really necessary or have we talked ourselves into believing that they are?
Most of us agree that improvements and new technology have largely made our lives easier and have enabled our species to accomplish things that were unthinkable only a few generations ago. Heck, even Luddites use PCs or Macs these days. People who hate scientists avail themselves of satellite communications, computers, and heat up their lunch in microwave ovens.
What bugs most of us are the constant influx of upgrades. I’ll just about figure out how to utilize most of the features of my computer and its operating system. Everything is humming along just fine. Soon, an upgrade is necessary for something else to run properly. I had a notice from WordPress that my browser is obsolete and that I’ll need to upgrade it to the next version. Well, to do that while accessing the web via a dialup connection is a horrible thought. I’ll need to upgrade the next time I’m near a free wireless area. I know, I need to upgrade my ISP. Tell that to my budget.
Sometimes technological upgrades put a real kink in people’s lives. For instance, I was upgraded out of a job. Automation was my nemesis throughout most of my radio career. I was glad to keep up with new technology as it was introduced. It was fun to switch from vinyl records over to compact discs. I had fun adapting from completely manual air shifts to live assist air shifts. That is the addition of automation to real time on air work. At the same time, I had fully automated air shifts that were concurrent with my live shifts. I could run two radio stations at the same time.
Soon, fully automated systems took over. The automation equipment runs in a similar manner to an iTunes window on your computer. Just more complicated and more prone to breakdowns and causing nervous breakdowns for those who must install it, maintain it and use it. While its initial cost is quite high, the automation soon pays for itself by enabling broadcast management to get by with far fewer staffers.
Aha, my nemesis, automation, won the footrace. I found myself in semi-retirement sooner than I had planned. The reason I’ve delayed writing this post is the emotional involvement I have with upgrades.
The concept of upgrading has not left me since I was upgraded out of work. I’ve been upgrading my knowledge base by self-education all along. Self-edification has been a lifelong pursuit. The exercise of posting on bluejayblog is a part of that education. In fact much of this blog is automated. I’m writing this post early on Wednesday morning to be automatically posted on Saturday.
I was told that I need to upgrade my education in order to land a rewarding job. Well, that’s a catch-22 situation. College is expensive. Paying off a student loan to educate myself into another career would be quite a gamble for someone of my age. The loan would be due after my official retirement.
Not long ago, a person remained in the same job or career for life. It wasn’t necessarily a requirement, but one could do so. A person could work to get through a life and still have time to live a life. Now, life is more or less about working or preparing to upgrade one’s personal knowledge base to enable more work. It has become an end in and of itself. The amount of time and money that is required for career upgrades has become greater than the benefit to the worker can be justified. The ol’ cost-benefit analysis looks increasingly askew.
Not only that, but with automation and outsourcing, landing that new job in that new career is becoming less attainable. This is a nasty demonstration of the law of diminishing returns. I wonder how things will work out for the crop of cocky young turks of today, as they enter their 40s and 50s. Especially since the world’s population is projected to be much greater. The working world’s technology will have likely been upgraded to the point of machines designing, building, maintaining and operating themselves.
What will become of humanity then? What will we need us for? We won’t even need to clean up after the machines and robots. They’ll do all that by themselves. We will have upgraded our species into obsolence. We will be living in an automated dystopia. Have the futurist forecasters given much thought to that situation? We have a horribly dismal track record with many of our technological improvements.
How will we upgrade to where upgrades will be for our best interests and not our worst?
The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks the subject of upgrades will come up in this blog in an upgraded version, later on.