ThoughtPiece: The Pace and Perception of Technological Change


It has been noted that the pace of technological change is usually perceived to be slower in the short term but faster in the long term. It’s kind of like watching a plant grow: on a daily basis, it seems to go slowly, yet come back in a month or two and the results will surprise you. The same could apply with perceptions of the growth of a child, one’s learning curve in a class, the construction of a new building, etc.

For those of us who are technophiles and keep up with technology news on an almost daily basis, this can leave us at a disadvantage. It is common for us to feel frustrated at delays to new product releases, and when those new releases finally hit the market we already have our next round of wish lists ready to go. Too many times it seems as if these companies we know and love, with their army of brilliant engineers, just can’t seem to ever get it quite right.

It’s like we are day traders in stocks, getting so consumed with every movement and turn in the market that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

For instance, recently we BlackBerry fans have felt frustration at delays and then the inevitable shortcomings in the new 8100 Pearl and now the 8800 products. It seems so disappointing that RIM didn’t release the 8800 (yet) with 3G, WiFi, or concurrently for CDMA networks. Yet let’s look at the larger picture. Remember when RIM released their first BlackBerry products in 1999 and the device looked like nothing more than a pager on steroids? Who could have imagined 8 years ago that we would have BlackBerry products that look like the 8100 or 8800? Forget about 8 years ago; most of us didn’t imagine these type of BlackBerry’s before the summer of last year, when the first rumors of the Pearl hit.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and remind ourselves of just how far we’ve come in a very short period of time. We can renew our sense of wonder and awe at what technology can accomplish and wipe away some of our frustration. This also serves to remind us that the future will most likely be far more interesting than what we can imagine at this point in time. Try to imagine what types of devices will be available 5, 10 or even 20 years from now and I think you get the idea.

The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke famously remarked that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s interesting to note, though, that technological advancement seems more like “magic” the longer the time frame.