An Attitude Of Gratitude

on November 23, 2014

Thursday, November 27th is Thanksgiving in the United States. So rather than do my normal weekly column, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about some of the things I am grateful for.

There’s a tendency in technology — in all things, really — to be more than a little unappreciative for the all the wonderful things we have around us. This is not a new phenomenon.

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ~ John Cleese as Reg, in Monty Python’s Life of Brian

By almost every objective measure, things are getting better. We don’t notice because we don’t know history well so we don’t recognize how much better the now and here is than the then and yesteryear was. Further, it’s our nature to focus on the bad and accept the good as our due.

Human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. ~ Aldous Huxley

This is why a day of Thanksgiving — a day to remember how truly good we have it — is worth having.

Mobile And Personal Computing

In our own little corner of the world, mobile and personal computing has dramatically improved people’s lives.

(H)umans are distinguished from other species by our abilities to work miracles. We call these miracles technology. ~ Peter Thiel

In 1995 there were 16 million people connected to the internet. In 2005 that number had grown to one billion. Already in 2014, that number has surpassed three billion — 40% of the world’s population.

Unconnected

In 1995, there were 250 million PCs. By 2020, 90 percent of the world’s population over six years old will have a mobile phone.

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Sometimes this new technology does not come in the exact form we expected or desired so we deride, dismiss or ignore its significance. Chris Dixon, below, gently chides us for our tendency to let what we forever want blind us to the wonder of what already is.

We asked for flying cars and all we got was the entire planet communicating instantly via pocket supercomputers. ~ Chris Dixon

Everyone Gets A Pocket Supercomputer

The implications of a supercomputer in every pocket will be enormous for everyone, but it will be disproportionately greater for the poor.

Mobile in emerging markets solves problems much further down Maslow’s Hierarchy. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 8/24/14

Most tech innovation is attacked as ‘rich people’s toys’, but ends up giving the poor things that previously only the rich could have. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans)

It’s still a common mistake to see smartphones (and even phones) as a luxury. In fact, their value is inversely proportionate to income. ~ Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) 8/15/14

I have been fortunate to have lived my life in the age of computing. But I’ve got a feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet. In the past, computing was available to those few of us who lived in developed countries and who had the wherewithal necessary to buy the devices we desired. That’s about to change and, I believe, change for the better. The impact on the world will be truly profound.

Thanksgiving in the palm of your hand

Mea Culpa

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. ~ Cicero

All too often, I am less grateful than I ought to be.

Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone. ~ Gertrude Stein

And all too often, even when I am grateful, I fail to express my gratitude. So let me conclude this short article by expressing my thanks to the creators of, and the contributors to, Tech.pinions, and most especially to you, the readers and commentators of Tech.pinions. I am truly grateful for you all.