At an early age, I came to believe that the necessities of life included food, a place to sleep and a massive wall of stereo equipment.
Certainly the old me would be appalled to see what the new me has turned into. I still love music. But that wall of equipment has vanished, replaced by a tiny stereo box that pulls music from my iTunes library. Pretty cool, but not exactly audiophile-grade.
I’m not fooling myself. I totally get that I’ve taken a step back in power and quality. It just makes things simpler.
It’s not like I haven’t seen friends and associates evolve in the same way. A great many are sacrificing some of those traditional indulgences in favor of simplicity — and they’ve never been happier.
It’s a trend that reaches well beyond music. According to a story in The New York Times last week, more and more people are leaving their point-and-shoot cameras at home because it’s just so much easier to carry a single device — a smartphone. They totally get that their photos aren’t as good. It’s a conscious choice. Simplicity matters.
Technically, these people are taking two steps backward. The point-and-shoot camera had already weaned us off the quality of a real camera (SLR). Such is the power of convenience.
So. Is our society going down the sewer? Are we lowering our standards and settling for second-best just because it’s easier? Will our standards continue to crumble? Will high-quality music and photography now go the way of vinyl?
Well, let’s face it. Most people were never really connoisseurs in the first place. They’ve always chosen the cheaper, easier way. For a great many people, what’s simpler today is actually elevating standards and adding a new dimension of fun to their life. For those who are truly sacrificing quality, most are making a conscious decision to simplify their lives in one way so they can improve their lives in other ways — allocating time and money toward more important things.
So I hesitate to forecast mankind’s doom as a result of this trend. People aren’t so much trading power for simplicity as they are validating the fact that there is power in simplicity.
Which is why those who design for this basic human instinct will always come out on top.