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Another Take: Technology and Happiness

New consumer electronics are hitting retail shelves soon – and that raises the question: should we have this much technology?
January 11, 2006

Last January, Technology Review ran an column called “Technology and Happiness” (by noted author James Surowiecki), which, as its title suggests, examined whether the plethora of tech gadgetry actually makes our lives better. Now, as the hype surrounding both Macworld and CES winds down, there are some who question the unstoppable rush to create the next, new gadgets.

For anyone who spends their days in front of a computer, that question seems to come up more and more – at least it comes up for this person who spends all his days in front a computer.

I’m always plugged in – either through my always-on Palm Treo 650, wireless Dell laptop, or two home computers (HP Windows Media Center and – for all you who think I hate Apple – a G4). I never walk out of my house without having access to the Web. And I find myself frequenting cafes and bars that have wireless access.

All that began to change in my mind, though, in December 2005, when I took the first real vacation I’ve had since I graduated college in 1994. I left all of my technology behind – and sat on the beach. It was a little troubling at first (ahhhhh…no Internet); but I quickly found that sitting on the beach with F. Scott Fitzgerald was a pretty good substitute.

It’s good to know I’m not entirely alone. Monica Hayes at the Pittsburg Post-Gazette has a story in today’s paper that wonders:

Cellphones to PDAs, iPods to PSPs are making it possible for us to never leave home without access to entertainment and/or information. “Mobile content” was the buzzword at last week’s Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. Major players like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft along with untold numbers of smaller companies are trying to carve out a slice of this ever-growing iPod-inspired pie…Do we have control over the technology or does the technology have control of us?

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