New is Not Necessarily Improved

digital illustrationWhat is it about commercial enterprise and marketing that says we need to change everything on a regular basis and that everything newer is better? Have we not looked in the mirror lately?!

Aside from the obvious danger in believing that every tweak a company makes to its products is an actual improvement of it in form or function rather than a logical step toward getting us to buy more from them, there’s the problem of how easily we are led astray by our own hubris. What we see as innovation and a natural extension of expertise that comes with our getting older, more advanced and practiced does not, in my experience guarantee that no further missteps and mistakes will occur. Why, a flood of examples comes instantly to mind. Every era, and every single object conceived and invented and designed in that era, has connections to spectacular failures and dismal disappointments in this regard.

Being lazy and spoiled, I’ll happily replace perfectly repairable things with prettier, shinier ones some of the time, but even in my privileged state I am capable of looking at my briefcase, thinking that I wish it had a strap that made it hug the handle of my rolling travel bag, imagining what it would take in time, money and effort to shop for another and find one that I really liked as well as I like this simple briefcase but had such a strap and then pay what would likely be an exorbitant price for it and thinking instead, ‘what do I have on hand from which I could make a suitable strap that I could then attach to my favorite little briefcase?’ The answer to which real-life question was a length of wide grosgrain ribbon, lapped fourfold end to end and stitched into one heavy piece now the width of the case and hand-sewn onto it. It’s not fancy, but it’s unobtrusive and cost me only a little labor, and by golly, it works.

Not that I intend to make my own replacements for, say, outmoded electronics when they no longer work. Because my new versions would be guaranteed to be failures, given my complete lack of knowledge or skill or anything related to them in the world of electronics, and I would have lots of nonfunctional electronics, a lot of things not done that should have been done, and a bunch of annoyed people around me wishing I’d just suck it up and get the equipment that would put me back on track. I am an accomplished fantasist, but I don’t go so far as to delude myself that I can make everything better than it is in its current form.

Not all upgrades are legit. Some of them are full of bugs or their new formats are not nearly as appealing and user-friendly as their predecessors’. Not all growth is positive. Noxious weeds grow, after all, and so does the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, which as you can imagine is not nearly as cute as it might sound in the Little Pigs’ tale.

Yet ranting about it is pointless other than as a vent. And much more good than ill comes from change and growth, it’s true. As a tiny example, while today’s pictorial illustration may not be high art by any stretch, it was made by using a combination of tools that I’ve only recently begun to embrace, and it was fun to make. An end in itself? No, and far from ideal and flawless as a Thing; I have new methods and am beginning to work on a new set of skills to use them and improve them, but I’ve a long way to go. But I don’t have to be all better, i.e., perfect, for the process to be worthwhile and the me that’s also in progress is an improvement if only because I am working on making change. I am happy when I can get up the nerve at any point to learn, to try, or yes, to become anything that I am not already firmly entrenched in being, because it’s worth striving to improve even–maybe especially–when the odds are against it. My evolution will always be slow and full of sideways and backwards steps, but I’m pretty sure it beats stasis.