As part of the effort we make at Colle+McVoy to let others know more about us, I’m one person of a bunch who tweet from @collemcvoy on a regular basis. Last month one of my tweets included a link to a great BusinessWeek book review about John Atanasoff, the man who invented the computer.
A theme from the review continues to percolate for me, as I spend 10 minutes here, five minutes there, throwing Angry Birds at blocks of stone and ice: “For all the pleasure and time-saving mechanisms these tiny computers [smartphones] afford, there is this disturbing iFact: They aren’t solving any real problems.”
Not that I ever anticipate solving any problems when I fire up Birds or any other of the few apps on my phone or Pad. But even when I’m trying to solve problems on a mobile device and on behalf of my clients, there’s a nagging suspicion it might be more effective to do so on a full blown laptop. And, to lend credence to that suspicion, the Atanasoff review held that “as computers have gotten smaller, so have many of their objectives.”
I haven’t summed it up this way yet, but the basic thread of the review was that apps kill innovation and do nothing more than help us all decrease productivity and waste time.
Which is why game developer Jane McGonigal’s talk at TED is so inspiring. She essentially wants to tap in to our innate need to compete and be social [online] in order to help solve the problems facing us today. It’s just a short step up from the mobile/app format so lamented in the BusinessWeek piece to the online projects Jane pursues.
In closing, I completely understand the understory in the piece. I myself feel guilty at times about burning away 15 minutes of my life uselessly when I could instead be doing something of import. But the truth is that sometimes one NEEDS to waste that time. Sometimes the inane can serve to refresh so that we’re even MORE thoughtful or productive than we otherwise might have been.
And besides, it’s worth pointing out that entertainment in and of itself, and time spent being unproductive, is not something we are facing BECAUSE of smartphones, apps or technology in general. And there’s nothing wrong with having some fun that isn’t directly contributing back into society. When’s the last time anyone could irrigate their crops by playing checkers, or fend predators away from livestock with a game of cards?
Now: where should I spend the rest of my iTunes holiday gift card?