We probably haven’t been as obsessed with gadgets the way we are now at any point in history. Every other day there is a new contraption or Kickstarter project spruiking some microchip enabled object of desire. What’s interesting is the shift that gadgets have made in the past decade. Rewind back to gadget innovation of last century – the good old 1900’s and we’ll see a different story from what we see today:
Gadgets from the industrial era invented time:
- The washing machine: No need to hand wash, or go to the laundry mat. Set and forget. Go do something else.
- The refrigerator / Freezer: No need to go to the market and buy fresh produce.
- Gas & electric heaters: No need to chop or collect wood, just flick a switch.
- Electric iron: No need heat it up on the fire place.
- Clothes dryer: No need to hang the washing on the line.
- Dishwasher: Less time needed slaving over the sink.
Gadgets from the digital era steal time.
Now lets take our minds into the gadgets we employ today: ipod, nintendo DS, smart phones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, TiVo and so on. Sure, some have extreme utility, yet they tend to take more time away than they invent. They first give a little, then they take a lot. It’s almost as though they takes us into a worm hole of exploration that eats up more than the efficiency they create.
It’s started to make me wonder about the time we give to our gadgets. Do we own them or are they starting to own us? I think the challenge of technology today is about understanding how we use the tools. Are we using them to consumer or create? Will we use them to create output, or be constantly giving them all of our input? For me this is a vital question where time is our most important asset. It’s an even bigger question for entrepreneurs, where the difference we make is largely a function of what we create. And in order to create something we increasingly need to pay attention to the devices around us and ensure we are in control of them, and it’s not the wrong way around.