Upgrades

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Apple launched the new iPhone last week and I’m sure there are thousands of people who can hardly wait to have their own.  I can appreciate how technology has improved over the years and the role that it now plays in our lives.  What I can’t understand is the compulsion that we have to always have the best and newest technology, whether we need it or not.

I’m willing to bet that only 10% of iPhone users need it in their lives.  Very few people need to be connected 24 hours in a day.  Very few people need access to the internet or their email immediately.  Most messages can wait.  In fact, we’re bombarded with so much information that we cannot fully absorb these and might even be missing out on the really important things because we are so preoccupied with superficial stuff.

I’m very much concerned with our consumerist culture which makes us want to buy, buy, buy.  Companies have fed this culture by developing products that make us want to acquire more and more.  And what happens to the gadgets that are still useful?  Trash.  So much trash is generated in the manufacture of these products and they end up being trash themselves in a matter of years.  Most of the gadgets can be considered consumable now and will be obsolete or have to be replaced in a few years.

Of course these gadgets make life more convenient.  But the lives that are being improved by these stuff are already easy and comfortable.  I would rather that technology be used to really help people whose lives are in dire circumstances.  But then there is no profit in that, no recognition, no fame.

But what if every person why buys an iPhone when they have a perfectly working phone, instead use that money towards causes that try to eliminate poverty, hunger, illiteracy?  I’m sure that money would be better spent and would really help people.  Isn’t it better to upgrade people’s lives than upgrade our gadgets?

I’m hoping that technological advances could be used for more practical purposes.  Hopefully engineers can figure out ways to protects crops from drought and flooding.  Hopefully they would find ways to bring clean water and electricity to remote areas that have no access to it.  Hopefully they would create houses that can withstand floods, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Our lives are so comfortable that we forget that there are only three basic needs, food (and water), shelter and clothing.  Everything else is extra.

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Advertising rules

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We all love watching Phineas and Ferb on Disney channel.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  They’re very creative and imaginative brothers who create the most amazing things.

Anyway, yesterday’s episode was when they were toy designers and they created Perry the Platypus toy.  And it became a big hit due to advertisement even though it does absolutely nothing.  The toy store even sold a brick as a toy and all the kids wanted one.

This episode shows how people are really influenced to buy stuff just because it’s on TV.  If it’s advertised, it must be good.  And it’s just ridiculous how people actually go for the most inane stuff.

I just think that our commercial culture is brought about by all the advertising that we see.  We get disappointed time and again (think infomercials), and yet we still keep coming back for more.  Advertising shapes how we view ourselves, our neighbors, our friends.  It tells us how to be cool and what we need to get respect.

In fact, I think a lot of items we have that we think we need, we really don’t.  But advertisers tell us that this is what we need, what we should get to show everyone that we are cool, that we are in, that we are successful and happy.

But life doesn’t work that way.  Chances are, everything you need, you already have.  And things that we think we want, probably won’t make us happy in the long run.  I try to teach this to my kids.  They always want the newest toys but most of the time, once they have the toy, they play with it for like a week, then they forget about it and they want the next new thing.  Or they go back to doing what they enjoy more, like riding bikes, playing outside or drawing and painting.

I think we should always view advertisements with a discerning eye.  Don’t believe everything you see and if you think that an item is ridiculous, it probably is.