“We don't perform religious rituals because we believe in God. We believe in God because we perform religious rituals.”
Robert Pirsig


No, Not Everyone


Disclosure: I beieve that a free Internet is a precious resource. It has been and continues to enable me to leverage my life in a radical way. As a result, I have great respect for the technologies that make the Internet possible and a similar default respect for the people behind those technologies. This, coupled with a past software/technology career keeps me in tune with a measured trickle of technology related news.

This morning I came across a post by Jason Calcanis. I know his name vaguely as a notable player in venture capital and Internet startup-land. He wrote a post outlining a path for Apple to become a trillion dollar company (a first in the history of economics/business). His prediction is that Apple will do so by making a major move into the world of online payments. I tend to agree with his prediction … and it left me a bit fearful. I believe Apple represents a lethal combination of amazing and disastrous achievement. I would be happy to learn that Apple has stopped revolutionizing and has either moved into a less-important and static existence or into non-existence … yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.

For more background on my position (no stocks involved) in Apple: Comfort: Apple in China & Potatoes in Romania and Not Getting an iPod.

Though its tempting and somewhat satisfying to be critical of Apple, I believe that it is only a symptom. It, a typical modern-day capitalist construct, is simply doing what it is meant and designed to do – supplying a market need and doing so in a way that optimizes profit. The root cause of Apple are the needs it fulfills … and that brings us to people – many millions of people. In the words of Jason Calcanis:

In the Calacanis household we buy at least 20+ apps a month. It’s a $50 to $100 monthly addiction, and it’s getting worse and worse by the day (or better depending on how you look at it).

Apps are the new Starbucks. Apps are our new guilty pleasure.

A daily “pick me up” that gives a longer and more fulfilling dopamine rush than a frappuccino — and without the calories (y’all heard on “60 Minutes” that sugar is now toxic, right?).

If you’re going to burn $3 to $5 a day consuming something, an app is the perfect little fix.

Apple’s neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) has trained us to solve our problems with apps.

You have problems? We have solutions.

“There’s an App for that” is a cult manifesto on par with “live your best life!”

Bottom line, we’ve been programmed that “installing” the latest app will make our lives better. The progress status bar at the bottom of an app icon is an emptying syringe.

We’re all app junkies, and for good reason: they’re a delightful rush and cheap.

There’s a reason why crack and apps are the same price.

I am assuming that in “We’re all app junkies” Jason is referring to more then just his immediate junky family. That’s where Jason is wrong. I’ve never owned a smartphone, heck I’ve never used a phone that has a touch screen (during my recent visit to Israel I was amazed to see so many people using them). I have no need for one though assume that eventually I will have to get one because simple phones will just not exist any more (though I will most likely still be using it to store and dial to a handful of phone numbers) … and I am not the only one. I believe that most of the people on the planet (the majority of human kind at the expense of whom Jason and his app-junky minority live their indulgent addictive lives) are not app-junkies – they are too busy working and paid to little to afford apps … or like me, privileged to live a life that is inherently immune to app-junkiness.

However this post isn’t intended to be a rant. It is a plea. People like Jason and their ability to utilize and scale technology places them in a rare position to make a huge impact on mankind. Their impact seems to be on a destructive course … one that he himself describes using words like “addicition, guilty pleasure, dopamine rush, fix, cult, emptying syringe, junkies, rush, cheap, crack”. I started this post with a confession of what an amazing impact a free Internet has had on my life and how that impact is now spreading out and touching many others. I feel that Jason and his kin are disconnected to the point that they are deluding themselves that they are a majority on this planet. I beg you Jason … please wake up, please sober up, please reconnect with your fellow humans, please step up to the challenge you are uniquely positioned to take on. We, you and I and our worlds, need to connect instead of gravitating further and further apart.

I was prompted to write this post because I could not leave a comment on Jason’s post. To leave a comment I would have to sign up with one of four services (Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail) I want nothing to do with. Jason, I don’t know if it’s ignorance or choice … but the end result is that I cannot join your conversation. That is a sad expression of how far apart we have grown.


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