I have been writing weekly on technology issues the entirety of the past decade - and what a decade it has been! Technology convergence has been fantastic, with more to come, but we need to make sure that our gadgets do not extract too much of a social cost.
Sure, when the decade began, there was the initial Internet novelty fascination and the Wild, Wild West free-wheeling mentality associated with all things Internet-related. VC's were throwing money hand over fist for practically anything tied to a new online idea. Valuations and share prices of start-up companies went through the roof, even if the supporting economic fundamentals were not in place.
Tech stocks did crater along with other stocks during the 2008 meltdown. But the NASDAQ has been leading the stock rebound of this past year. Why? Perhaps because tech is here to stay. Even with the ups and downs of the stock market and certain tech companies, the Internet no longer is subject to slow dial-up connections or is the plaything of "geeks" only. Tech and portable wireless access have become ubiquitous.
When I first started writing on tech issues, in the late-1990s, I was much like "Inspector Gadget" - I had a different device for every conceivable function, because I wanted it all. On my belt back then, I would clip on my PDA that simply coordinated my calendar and tasks, as it was an island with no outside access. I also would attach my MP3 player for stored music. When I wanted to take pictures, I would clip on my camera, and at times I would strap on my video camera. I dreamed of the day when all of this technology would come together, and it has beyond expectation.
Now, our PDAs do it all. In a device the size of a deck of cards, we can make phone calls, we can send and receive email, we have full Internet access, we can listen to stored music, we can access music wirelessly, we can take and view photos and video, and we can send media files. This technology is widely available and is not the province of the few. The younger generation has been growing up with this convergence of technology during this decade and has come to expect many functions, speed and convenience, driving the technology push further forward.
Where there is wireless access, we now can perform so many of life's functions right out of our hand. This was not at all true a decade ago. Back then, long ago and far away, we were afraid that Y2K might grind all computers to a halt. Of course, that did not happen and we have moved forward at warp speed.
But with advances in technology comes social challenge. It is not uncommon to be in a public place where the annoying chatter of others' cell phone calls can be disturbing. Or, whether in public or private locations, rather than interact with one and other, people often are glued to their hand-helds and removed from the world right in front of them. Some people have retreated so much into technology that they are "Internet addicts," and others spend more time in "virtual worlds" than in real life. And there are safety issues as well, when people are distracted so much by their devices that they do not pay sufficient attention when they are driving or performing other tasks that require full attention.
Technology when used properly, can increase productivity, convenience and speed. But our hand-held devices cannot give us a hug - at least not yet! So while further technological advances in the next decade likely will be exciting, let's not also forget the old adage that "simple things are the best."
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.
This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.