I was listening to an interview with a guy called James Williams on a podcast called Talking Politics. Williams writes about technology and culture, and he coined a term for a feeling I’ve felt for the longest time but haven’t found a name for: the feeling of being constantly more stupid than the technology you depend on.
He calls it “the treadmill of incompetence.” You buy a piece of technology, and before you’ve learned how to operate it, before you understand exactly what it’s capable of doing, it gets updated; so you buy the update, and now you’re two steps behind; and then it’s updated again, or perhaps there’s an entirely new device that obviates the need for the device you’ve been updating, so you buy the new device, and you don’t totally understand how to operate it, and then an update is released, and there you are on the treadmill again.
Your technology affirms your incompetence, again and again, day after day. Williams has worked in tech, and he says that tech engineers aren’t malicious people–and yet they’re working in an industry that is in some perverse way engaged in a project of mass bewilderment. Which is different than a project of mass wonder.