Resistance is Futile

As much as the technology chorus overstates the case when they chant that we either adopt the shiny new iToy that comes out or die, there remains a swathe of lawyers who take some sort of perverse pride in refusing to adopt anything that runs on electricity.  Need to know where you’re going? Get a Hagstroms. 

Belying this refusal to even consider learning what’s out there is the Luddite belief that they already know how to do things, and aren’t reliant on somebody else’s app to manage their lives.  For some, it’s the way they’ve always done it, and they’ve done pretty darn good up to now.  For others, it’s the pace of change, too much to bother with and, advertisements to the contrary, it’s not intuitive.  If you’ve managed just fine up to now, why change?

Part of the problem is that the pace of change can be overwhelming, leaving those who aren’t paying attention to the ever-changing cutting edge constantly behind.  It’s not that important to them to spend the time to know, and as one finds oneself behind the times, it’s not important enough to catch up.  They make the decision not to bother, secure in the knowledge that they’ll manage.

But another part of the problem is the smugness of the Luddite, some sort of perverse pride of ignorance.

I see that a lot among my peers, meaning people of a certain age who can well remember the transition from eight track tapes to cassettes.  Some have embraced certain elements of technology, such as a Blackberry, but eschew others.  Some can barely use a computer and are, inexplicably, proud of it.

My gut reaction to the announcement of a Apple product is “so what?”  But I like to know what’s out there and what it can do, if for no other reason than to avoid the shock when the next version appears a week later.  I thought the Flip video camera was a remarkable invention, considering that my first video camera took VHS tapes and weighed about 74 pounds.  Now I hear that Cisco has given them up, smartphone video being too much to compete against.  Of course, I also remember my first cellphone, reminiscent of a World War II walkie-talkie and costing $12 a minute provided you could find a signal. 

To my eye, most of what is touted at the cutting edge of technology means nothing to me.  Few of the very cool apps used in smartphone television commercials fill any need I might conceivably have, and the cool factor of the newest gadget doesn’t make me feel like more of a manly man.  I’ll pass.

However, when a dear friend’s reaction to anything remotely smelling of tech is to say, “pooh, pooh,” ridicule it and remind me that they’ve lived this long without every using anything that required a microprocessor, I cringe.  You sound foolish.  You are foolish.  I understand the resistance, but there’s a point at which reasonably intelligent people take notice of what’s happening around them. 

You can play the Luddite game for fun, but when you really mean it, you refuse to either recognize the utility of technology or distinguish things that will facilitate your life from shiny toys, you become that caricature of the curmudgeon who refuses to accept that life is passing them by. 

The problem is that the pace of change is mind-boggling.  Due to my involvement in the blawgosphere, I learn a fairly good amount about what’s new, and I find it difficult to keep pace or wrap my head around evolving change.  If you haven’t given much thought to tech since the CD came out, it can be impossible to catch up.  And you will spend the rest of your life wondering what the hell everybody else is talking about.

It’s not that I’m suggesting that the iPhone 17 will change your life.  It won’t.  But to deny that changes are happening and remain blissfully ignorant of their existence is no more useful than being the first online at the Apple store when the new iToy comes out.  Use your long-term perspective to distinguish things that will provide meaningful utility to your life, provides a serious benefit for a reasonable cost, and has more than 2 weeks longevity.  There’s a benefit to not feeling the compulsion to be on the cutting edge.

Do not, however, hide your head in the sand and pretend that your ignorance of technology is a virtue.  it’s not.  It’s just ignorance.

7 comments on “Resistance is Futile

  1. Antonin I Pribetic

    The British Luddites have gotten a bum rap historically (see Mark Engler’s article in Dissent Magazine dated March 31, 2011 (link redacted in compliance with SJ policy).

    Your post strikes a reasonable balance between the benefits of embracing legal technology without copping a virtual feel.

    To a degree, your argument support the Neo-luddism movement, which includes “the critical examination of the effects technology has on individuals and communities.”(Wikipedia is awesome!), in contrast to the “Reform Luddism [which] is an offshoot of Neo-Luddism and represents a personal world view skeptical of modern technology and critical of many purported benefits.” (more Wikipedia citation awesomeness!).

    There is nothing to be gained by rejecting technology and burying one’s head in the quicksand. Civil lawyers are forced by civil justice procedural reforms to be technologically competent (e.g. Sedona principles for e-discovery). CDL’s face comparable demands when dealing with prosecution disclosure in white collar crime cases.

    I personally don’t line up to buy the latest shiny gadgets or download the flavor of the month app. I use a desktop at work and laptop and home and in court, and employ litigation management software for more complex commercial litigation files. I also prefer to read real books instead of ruining my eyes staring at a small screen tablet.

    The nextgen trial lawyers will still need to develop core competency and skill-sets based upon actual courtroom experience. To this end, you may be interested in my forthcoming co-authored article:

    B. Kapralos, M. Hogan, A. Pribetic, and A. Dubrowski. Virtual simulations and serious games in a laptop-based university: Gauging faculty and student perceptions. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, special issue on Experiences on Teaching in a Laptop University (to appear 2011).

  2. Jeff

    It’s a shame that most attorneys who would really benefit from this advice would not read it since they probably shun blogs along with the other nerdy aspects of the computer interwebs. Good article nonetheless.

  3. Alex Bunin

    My IPhone 17 has barely changed my life. The IPad 22, now that is miraculous. Oh wait…something else beeping with a touch screen!

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