You’re probably not surprised by those numbers. I did. They are an indication that we sometimes believe that behavioral changes from new technologies are far more common than they really are. Why? I will offer two possible explanations.
The first is that people (and journalists) tend to pay more attention to what’s new and novel. That may be especially true if behavioral changes are happening to the relatively wealthy. The vast majority of American workers continue to do their jobs even in the depths of the pandemic, but about half of all professional workers at one point did their jobs at the office because of the coronavirus.
And Peloton, the maker of $2,500 exercise bikes for online fitness classes, has about 2.1 million paying customers to use its exercise bikes or treadmills. By comparison, about 3.5 million households in the United States have kept birds as pets in a recent year, according to a veterinary trade group. Peloton may be less common than macaws, but it gets more attention.
This isn’t to say Peloton isn’t important, that remote work isn’t worth it, or that Netflix isn’t a big deal. The novelties of today may become the commonplace of tomorrow.
That brings me to the second explanation, that relatively small but rapid changes in individual behaviors, repeated millions or billions of times, can disrupt everything around us.
I’ve written before about how many of our habits and the practices of most businesses and cities have been profoundly altered by Amazon and online shopping, still being a fraction of what it is. what we buy. Ditto for Uber and Lyft. The companies account for a small amount of miles driven in the United States, but their vehicles are a significant contributor to traffic and their treatment of couriers has helped prompt a reconsideration of what a job means in the United States and Europe.
In an article about New York’s economic recovery from the pandemic, my colleagues accounted for the statistic that if only one in 10 office workers in Manhattan stopped coming in most of the time, that means “more than 100,000 people a day don’t pick up coffee and bagels on their way to work or drinks afterward. “
You can imagine how that could affect the sales of a Times Square bar – and possibly help a person in the suburbs if people swapped their after-work drinks for drinks. after Zoom. Just working a little further from home can profoundly change roads and transit systems that are already designed around peak office workers’ commute times.
The digital butterfly effect of a million small changes can be unpredictable and uneven. People, companies and policymakers will have to figure out how to deal with the big differences that can come from small changes.
Tip of the week
Do (and don’t) buy these used electronics
Buying used products is often gentler on our wallets and the planet. Brian X. Chen, curator of consumer technology for The New York Times, recommends which electronic parts and accessories to buy second hand – and which parts may not be worth the price.
Computer memory: Buy. Also known as random access memory or RAM, these sticks to improve a computer’s speed will last indefinitely, as long as the previous owner didn’t use a screwdriver. You should double-check any product images.
Battery: Avoid. In general, I do not recommend buying used batteries for any device. Batteries are designed for limited use, so you’re better off buying a new one.
Screen: Sometimes avoided. Screens on electronic devices wear out and look less bright over time. They are also prone to distortions such as “burn in” and dead spots. Sometimes you can find a good price on a used TV with a screen that’s not too old and has good picture quality, but it’s wise to only consider those purchases from people you know. and trust.
Add-ons: Buy most of the time. Peripherals such as computer mice and keyboards are quite reliable. It’s still best to test them in person to make sure all buttons and keys work properly. Use any accessories powered by a non-replaceable rechargeable battery. And earbuds are a pain. Do you really want to wear someone else’s used headphones?
Charging cable: Buy. As long as the cable is not frayed and the connector appears to be in good condition, you can purchase a pre-owned charging cable. Try not to spend more than a few dollars per person as brand new charging cables tend to be inexpensive.