Tomorrow is being billed as the dawn of the next iPad. Like many others, I’m on my second, and that second one isn’t that old – AT ALL! But that is the path of technology oriented cultures.
I thought about this as I watched Pawn Stars the other day. A customer was trying to sell an ancient drill and set of drill bits. It still worked, all under human power.
When I think about sustainability, companies like Apple are the epitome of our consumer culture, which is the antithesis of sustainability. As much as they say they are green or sustainable, the very business they are in, replacing last year’s gear with something that creates obsolesce, is the inverse of sustainable—and not only that, everything they sell consume power. The ancient drill worked once 500-years ago, it is made of mostly renewable and recyclable parts driven under human power, but that doesn’t really matter, because 500-years later the only reason it needs to be replaced is because we have created a perception of reality that includes productivity and efficiency. If we lived at a slower pace, the old drill would still suffice.
We don’t however, live at a slower pace. We have made strategic choices, as individuals and as societies (yes, plural) that this approach to designed obsolesce and continual speeding up of replacements and increases in expectations is our vision for the future.
When we look at Apple’s valuation, the people with the money are voting for Apple’s model. Its product model. Its innovation model. Its human capital and manufacturing model, as well as its definition of sustainable. At times the most highly valued company in the world, Apple represents the execution of our best hopes and dreams.
So sure, I want a faster processor, a higher definition display, better WiFi and more memory. I am a product of our culture, and an early adopter at that. I recycle as much as I can, but I would recycle less if I consumed less, and consumed slower.
Our relentless move toward better, faster and cheaper creates many kinds of friction, and I’m note sure we’ve even defined most of them, but some include how and what we teach our children, how we relate to each other as human beings, and how we conduct the business of the world. As much as we deceive ourselves that technology makes everything better eventually, it also creates great rifts and deep divisions, and those rifts and divisions create social and cultural heat, that like the tidal heat that keeps the Earth’s core molten, needs to be released occasionally. And that is why we need to be adaptive and flexible toward the future, even as we believe we co-create it, because at some point, what we want to create may come up against an insurmountable force that no amount of desire or ambition will overcome, and then we will need to jog sideways and reinvent our expectations and our reality.
The iPad marches us forward with its ever-more enticing features. We don’t know, however, how long the path is on which we march, nor our real speed because the future offers no markers. We know only that it is forward into something new – those who wait for the newness to confront them, or worse, resist the reality of the moment, may be lost to those that at least attempt to anticipate the future, because practice is better than complacency. Practice provides the muscles, mental and physical, with faster reaction times.
And that’s why I buy into the iPad’s current juggernaut into the future: because they will define much of our social, technological and educational future for some time to come, even if the details remain uncertain—you can’t navigate, let alone shape, a future in which you aren’t even engaged. Engagement, however, is different than rigid belief—hold your beliefs loosely, so that when the world changes, you can abandon what no longer matters and quickly adapt to the new reality as it unfolds.
Oh, and enjoy your new iPad HD or iPad 3 or iPad 2s, or whatever Apple decides to call it. I’m sure I will soon enough to stay ahead of most of the curves.