mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, January 21, 2008

How technology is making us better off, even if we aren't richer...

A couple years ago, I wrote a post about how much the content of cars has increased, while inflation-adjusted prices have remained pretty much the same. Clearly, the same applies to technology, and nothing illustrates it better than this Megan McCardle Post featuring a 24 parody as if it were shot in 1994.

The comments devolve into people debating if GDP has really increased, and what portion of it is technology. I think that's besides the point. The fact is that a ton of things we wouldn't think could be done at all 15 years ago are now well within reach of pretty much everyone. We are safer, because pretty much everyone carries a cellphone and can call for help in case of emergency. We are better informed through the internet, better able to communicate and interact with friends and strangers, to network and meet people, to research things. We can find ourselves with cheap GPS units, watch TV on screens bigger and flatter than we would have imagined 15 years ago, and capture and share our memories digitally through pictures and video.

MadAnthony was just starting high school in 1994. But from what I understand, the college I work at used a Digital Equipment Corp VAX for email, and dorm room connections were a parallel cable plugged into the back of your ROLM phone. Most students didn't have PC's in their rooms, and those that did had bulky desktops with CRT monitors. Today, most students have a laptop, a cell phone that doubles as a computer, and can connect wirelessly from anywhere.

A few weeks ago, I was driving back from NJ, and was pulling out of a convenience store where I had just paid for my hot dog with the Blink feature on my Chase card (which uses RF so you don't have to swipe). I settled into the seat of my Ranger, fired up some MP3's off the stereo (my factory system reads MP3 CD's), and turned on my Tom-Tom GPS - and it dawned on me that the future really was now - that I was using a bunch of technology that was unaffordable a couple years ago and impossible to buy at any price a few years before that. And that's the kind of better living that isn't measured in a market basket of goods or other traditional economic statistics.


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