Nice article at technologyreview.com on Technology and Happiness which starts out by saying that Americans are less happy now than in 1946, and that the Amish rate considerably higher than the average American.

There are two points that the article doesn’t cover. Firstly, I would say that it is an inherent feature of our consumer society to make people unhappy. It suggests that your present car/TV/cellphone is unsatisfactory in some way: it doesn’t have feature X, or it isn’t cool. Only by buying the Mark II can you feel safer on the highway, watch two channels at once or listen to music on it.

Secondly, there is a myth that technology is constantly improving. While this is true in many cases, it is far from universal. For example:

  • To switch windows in MS-Word or most other programs, just type Ctrl-F6. Oh, no problem; they’re only 6″ apart on my keyboard. This came about because the original IBM PC design was changed.
  • The quality of phone conversations is as bad as the static-filled conversations of the pre-fibre-optic days. Yes, there’s the trade-off of portability, but that’s of no benefit to the recipient of the call.
  • Digital cellphones are way worse than the older analog phones. A friend of mine in Dallas held onto his until it broke a year ago, just for the better sound.
  • My 2.4GHz phone which promised a greater range actually give me about half the range of my previous 900MHz phone.

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