Over the holidays I was down in LA with family—it was the first time in three or four years that we’d all been together at the same time. We mostly succeeded in avoiding the holiday craziness of shopping malls and packed movie theaters, but I did drive my mom down to the mall one night. Sometimes I’m in awe of the insights my mom has about technology. This line from that night will stay with me for a long time:
“The nice thing about the Maps lady I guess is that she never gets angry with you. She just restarts from wherever you are.”
So much wisdom in one simple observation. How often do we all wish we could be more like the Maps lady? The success of Lululemon would suggest the answer is, “Often — very, very often.”
Sometime in the past year or two I read Sherry Turkle’s latest book, Alone Together, and I may need to revisit it again soon. Human relationships are hard. They require work, give and take, tolerance, flexibility — in ways that our relationship with computers don’t. As the maps example illustrates, the endlessly forgiving and nonjudgemental nature of our interactions with technology can be a blessing. I suppose that was in some ways the appeal of Samantha, though she ultimately adopted a deeper emotional palate. The Samantha-future is a long way off, if it exists at all. But in the near-term, I wonder.
If you spent enough time with Maps-lady equivalents, would you adopt that forgiving approach to human error? Or would you just lack the ability to cope adequately with a judgmental human companion? You often hear that the technology is making us dumber — we used to not need those navigation systems after all — but it’s too easy to quickly forget the mundane, daily stresses it’s taken out of the equation. Wouldn’t it be the greatest irony of all if the technology we blame for rushing us through life, that we go to yoga classes and meditation retreats to get away from, might be the very thing that could teach us finally to restart wherever we are?