My column last week on “The myth of the digital lifestyle” provided some interesting feedback. I asked, “Will missing Fox News cause me mental anguish and make me dangerously uninformed?” to which reader Jim Turner replied, “No, but watching Fox news will. At [least anyone] who can tell polemics from serious discussion.”

Media criticism aside, this lifestyle thing is now not only digital, it is mobile as well. A quick search reveals that Siemens, HP, and any number of publications think a mobile lifestyle is a slam-dunk part of modern life.

Quite obviously what the companies touting digital and mobile lifestyles are trying to do is create a marketing platform, a way for people to redefine their lives based on the products the vendors want to sell.

The problem is the digital or mobile lifestyle isn’t actually better or easier or more satisfying than the analogue lifestyle. Many of you wrote to say technologies that are supposed to be making life easier just aren’t doing the trick.

I feel your pain. Over the past few years I have purchased five DVD players and all of them exhibit bugs, mostly of the freezing picture kind. My son figured out that jumping back a few seconds and then hitting play usually fixes the problem. While this works, it is a terrible solution. The problem is kids are growing up with these kinds of solutions.

Is that what the digital lifestyle is all about? Papering over the cracks?

Reader James Bandinelli wrote: “Meanwhile back in the real world, who’s taking care of our sewage and water systems, electrical grids, sky walkers, welders, builders, real life infrastructure stuff. It appears to me we have a generation that knows little to nothing about these things…. Is the digital world resulting in us losing the [interest, knowledge and know-how] of our forefathers?”

That’s an interesting question. The cause is partly explained by the next generation’s need to deal with the technology of the world as they find it. No doubt there was a time when some father somewhere lamented his son’s interest in cars and wondered who would know how to look after the horses in the future.

But the fact is we have to accept the digital lifestyle (the real evolving one rather than the evanescent marketing version) as inevitable. So the biggest question is, can it serve us better? Will it give us greater ease and comfort? Will it make our lives more productive?

You know what? You, the people reading this column, are the ones who can make sure that a real digital lifestyle comes into being. The systems you build and the products you engineer, the way you educate people and the way you talk about IT, these are the things that will make the difference between the hype and the reality. Are you up for the challenge?

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