Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

We Need iPads

Every once in a while somebody explains that “we” don’t need this or that product, however great it may be and however great the demand for it. For example, a tech reviewer dubs Apple’s latest iPad models “largely unnecessary,” given last-year models almost as capable.

The charge of unnecessariness is surely false when we’re talking about customers who do want the most cutting-edge technology and can put it to good use. But it’s false in a broader perspective too — unless we suppose that all advances in human civilization beyond the level of the hut and the bearskin are “largely unnecessary” to human survival and well-being.

If technological progress is necessary, so are key aspects of how that progress happens, including the fact that it so often happens by “largely unnecessary” increments. Any given marginal advance in computer or PC tech may have been dispensable. But the same can’t be said of the process of cumulative improvement as a whole. Consider, for example, that some ninety percent of what we now do on our PCs would have been impossible to do with the 1980 PC. Our 2014 laptops could not have been crafted without myriad intermediate advances.

As striving human beings, our needs evolve as our means improve and enable us to pursue ends that we could not have pursued with less powerful means. Ergo, I welcome every little improvement we can get. And I can hardly wait for my 2025 iPad.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor

3 Comments

  1. AllenT says:

    That reminds me of the frequent news articles back in the 80s and 90s about each advance in PC and CPU speed. There was always someone that wrote an article or column in response stating that what we had already was fast enough, so why would anyone waste money on the new ones.

    My reply to all those was along these lines: If I have to wait for my computer (or these days, smart phone) to do anything or respond to my input, then it just flat out isn’t fast enough yet to do the job.

  2. Laird says:

    Well, since you didn’t include a link to the tech review being discussed I can’t know what it really says. It could be as silly as you make it out to be. Or it could simply be saying that the few small improvements in the new model simply don’t justify the cost for most people. And that’s an entirely legitimate criticism to make. Cutting-edge early adopters will ignore the review anyway. But the rest of us, who upgrade our equipment only when the combination of small, incremental improvements finally pushes the new device across the threshold of a reasonable cost-benefit analysis, will benefit from the description.

    No one asserts that cumulative technological advances are “unnecessary”; that’s a straw-man argument. But examining each individual advance on its own is certainly useful. On balance, I find this article to be silly and unhelpful.

  3. David says:

    The link Laird didn’t see was omitted because of a glitch, not intentionally:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/23/technology/personaltech/ipad-air-2-and-mini-3-review-one-thumb-up-and-another-down.html?_r=0

    IT’s not a legitimate _criticism_ of a product to say that it is “largely unnecessary” for most people. All individual models of all products are “largely unnecessary” for most people. The question is: why make a special issue of this mere truism with respect to a specific extemely popular, well-made, cutting-edge product? Why is “largely unnecessary” the tech reviewer’s headline in this particular case?

    AllenT’s comment above is more on the mark. There is in fact a lot of gratuitous nay-saying of technological advance that merely jumps lightmonths ahead of previous incarnations instead of light years. The Times reviewer’s is only the mildest form of the criticism.

    It is legitimate to say “You don’t really need this year’s version if you have last year’s AND you don’t plan to use more sophisticated software that can really exploit the doubled speed of this CPU.” But a blanket characterization of a product as “largely unnecessary” is unwarranted. If the reviewer weren’t equivocating about the context of _whose_ need he is talking about, we couldn’t possibly have that cavalierly disparaging headline as the summary of his theme: “IPad Air 2 and Mini 3 Review: Fantastic, but Largely Unnecessary, Tablets.”

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