It seems like the next big thing is always trying to combine the knobs and buttons of your life into a single revolutionary new paradigm of luxury. Especially exemplary are the new developments in heads-up display devices1 and the various misnomers for cloud computing. At a primitive level, we understand the advantages. It’s integrated. All of it is, like a strict building code in a top-dog neighborhood. As human beings, we’re predisposed to patterns because it’s part of our innate behavior. The predictability and uniformity of life comes from the hunter-gatherer era when fewer things to worry about meant an easier life. But, humans, as usual, make bad choices for themselves.
Think about every invention in the world that has stood the test of time. Each does only one thing and it does it well. From the resistors and capacitors of integrated circuits to complex server farms, every level of organization is both specialized and generalized. Lightbulbs and PET bottles have exceedingly specific usages, but their true ingenuity comes not from the object itself, but from the way they are used in conjunction as part of a larger system. On the other hand, things like home entertainment systems are modularized into replaceable interconnecting parts that can be reused in the future2. All of the modern world stands on the shoulders of giants before us, and it is only by building off the breakthroughs of our predecessors that we can see farther and farther. So why do modern tech startups insist on starting afresh? No, I’m sorry. That’s unfair. Some of the largest perpetuators of this animalistic ideology are billion-dollar household names who actually do have the resources to push standards into our lives. That’s not too bad. After all, standards, in addition to language and culture, are defined by what we the people make them to be. Then we would all be fine and dandy letting the big guys call the shots if only there weren’t established protocols already in existence.
It’s funny when people are reviewing their risk management and take into account the security strength of the standards they’re using3. In the practical world, the protocols that run everything from our banking system to vulgar forms of amusement are tried and tested. Not only that, they’ve already been introduced to and are supported by platforms and people. It’s curious how we want so badly to change what’s already familiar to us into newfangled all-in-one packages that are good at no one thing in particular. But still, not everything must be so monofunctional and boring. Semantically, cell phones are single-purpose devices. They’re mobile communication, and not for games and diversions. Why would you put games on a Kindle or watch television on a phone? It makes little sense in the presence of consoles and televisions that were created for these purposes. That’s not to say repurposing old equipment for untraditional uses isn’t a commendable hobby for enthusiasts. However, it does seem that society has lost track of this design goal lately.