For those of you who have read Chrossing the Chasm, there are early adopters and late adopters (and a couple of groups in between that are not represented in this family).
Early adopters buy Version 1 of the latest technical gadget for exhorbitant prices and get a testerone high from how poorly it works and how difficult it is to use. Ralf, budget permitting, is an early adopter. Naturally, he has an iPhone and before the iPhone he had an extravagent Sony Erickson that cost 600 EUR and also ran up a fortune in Internet surfing charges while sitting locked in the glove compartment during a soccer game.
We never found out why the phone decided to surf the Internet on its own and the German Vodafone legal machine, supremely uninterested in possible mitigating circumstances (like we didn't do anything), made us cough up.
Yes, a lot of our mechanical objects seem to have a life of their own.
For this and other reasons I tend to distrust new technologies and am more of a late adopter. I don't buy anything until it's cheap and idiot proof. For years I've been happy with the simplest of cellphones and when Ralf ordered his iPhone last year I opted to save the family money with a basic Nokia.
But the iPhone has reached a sort of Tipping Point (another great book) in coolness and ease of use (although it's still not cheap) and I feel unreasonably jealous when I watch Ralf look up Munich U-Bahn maps on his phone. By comparison, my Nokia is clunky, primitive and difficult to use.
It sucks, really.
My next phone will be an iPhone.
With the iPhone you can download a number of cheap and simple little programs, like a picture of a burning candle with a timer for mediation, or light saber sound effects that respond to how you move the iPhone - Ralf loves showing that one to his friends. There are also various sound effects, like animals, drumrolls and rasberries, which are useful in business meetings.
And perhaps coolest and most unnecessary of all, the one Ralf can't get enough of, is the flute. That's right, you blow into the iPhone microphone and flute sounds emerge. On the touch screen there are also keys you can press to hit different notes.
AND you can register as an iPhone flute player and some global database tracks who's playing their iPhone flutes right now and shows you a map of the earth with lights to indicate where they are.
AND you can drill down and listen to, say, Eric in Bakersfield play his flute.
AND you can rate him.
Strangely enough, I feel I can live without the iPhone flute but Ralf is hooked. And someone earned about a dollar for this piece of iPhone software from Ralf, and a dollar from Eric in Bakersfield, and so on.
Along the same lines, a German state minister ran into a Slovakian woman on the ski slopes and killed her outright. They were not wearing helmuts. Following this there was a run on helmuts and shops ran out long before the demand was supplied. And out of this undeniable tragedy a second small but thriving sub-industry has emerged: ski helmut bling, like bunny ears and other silly decorations, which are selling like hotcakes. You can't stand in line for a ski lift without someone's idiotic tiger tail hitting you in the face.
When I see stuff like this I really wonder about people but I stop worrying about the economy. A 7.6 % unemployment rate is awful and I pray for the people this has impacted. True, selling the same old stuff in the same old way has probably run its course. But the good news is that people will always come up with new stuff that people will pay money for.
And the design, development, packaging, sale, distribution, technical infrastructure, marketing and legal document filing for these goods and services will create new jobs.
Gotta love it. Or be very, very afraid. . .