I like football a lot. I’m a fan of that particular competition. But I am not a fan of competition in general. From childhood, I was shaped and molded to be an athlete. I was a wrestler, football player, track & field specialist, a really bad swimmer, and a rather skilled backyard basketball player. Don’t even get me started on cards, board games, and dominos.
I can’t think of anything I enjoy that hasn’t been the subject of some sort of competition in my life. I have competed with my music in talent shows, public speaking, reading, spelling, math - It has all been a matter of competition. And frankly, I’m sick of it!
There are many reasons why competition no longer holds the value for me that it once did. But I suspect the main reason is that I no longer value the end goal that competition seeks. I no longer care about being the best. Sure, I want to achieve my personal best. But I just don’t care if I am the greatest in the world at any particular thing. It does nothing good for my character to gaze upon the rest of the world as being less than me, or not as good as me in some field of endeavor.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping it entirely. I can’t even enjoy technology without dealing with the anxiety of competition. Mac vs. PC, Apple vs. Samsung, iOS, vs. android, Chrome vs. Linux, Intel vs. AMD, and on it goes. We have no time to enjoy anything because we are too busy racing it, and comparing it, and arguing for why it is better than every other alternative. The competitive spirit poisons everything. And I, for one, have had enough! Here are a few examples of competitive tech that just don’t matter to me anymore:
How many megapixels does your camera have? Do you even know why that would matter? Do you honestly think the bigger number yields the better picture? Here’s a tougher question: What constitutes the better picture?
Here’s the truth: The best picture is the one that makes you happy. The pundits have no idea what will make you happy. Chasing meaningless stats will not get you a picture that makes you happy. The most important thing about any photo is the moment you capture, and the memory and emotions that it later evokes.
Color accuracy will not cause you to love your grandma or grandchild any more. I believe people had a more visceral relationship with photos when they took snapshots with Polaroids that sometimes came out blurry, faded, and imperfect in every way. Today, photos are more an intellectual or artistic exercise than a truly emotional one.
Well, I no longer care whether my photos achieve technical perfection or artistic acclaim. There is no smartphone camera on the market that can make my wife look bad in my eyes. Technology has advanced to the point where we have forgotten why we take pictures in the first place. Enough is enough.
It might come as a bit of a shock that someone into technology could care less about the screen tech in their devices. But here I am. First, my vision isn’t the best. So there comes a point where I can no longer see the improvements. If you are over 40, your vision isn’t what it used to be either. There is a good chance you stopped being able to resolve individual pixels a long time ago on even budget Chromebooks.
Still, a good display is about a lot more than pixels. It is also about color accuracy. While it is true that some displays are more accurate than others, we don’t really need all that accuracy to enjoy looking at photos, or a good movie. The fact is, outside of studio conditions, we never see anything accurately anyway.
Hues change with lighting conditions, including the type of lightbulbs you use. Cameras interpret and massage color. Editors do the same in expensive editing software. Beyond that, your monitor has its own set of instructions for displaying color. Once we get through all these interpretive layers, our own brains join the fun and show us colors that would look slightly different to someone else. After that, our memories show us a whole different take on colors.
Most likely, your display shows you an accurate enough image so that you would not find it distracting. Beyond that, you really have no idea what accurate colors look like. Put two monitors side by side. You will notice slight variations in color. Now, determine which is accurate. What would that even mean? Without finely calibrated instruments, you couldn’t do it.
When I was looking at a display purchased in the Windows XP era on a PC running Windows 7 at work, I had no trouble seeing what I needed to see. My experience would not have been enhanced by a better display for what I was doing. I become quickly acclimated to any display I happen to be in front of. I am no longer interested in wasting a lot of time peeping at pixels to see if mine is the absolute best display in the world. It truly doesn’t matter.
This is going to take some explaining. Obviously, money is an object. It always is. What I don’t care about is how much one thing costs compared to a similar thing. I also have given up on the concept of a fair price. I don’t believe there is any such thing. It is an abstract concept that we worry way too much about.
You have no idea what a fair price would be for any given item. You don’t know exactly how much it costs to make a single item. And you have even less of an idea how much the first one cost the company.
No company can sustain selling items at a loss, or even at cost. So how much above cost should a company charge? If a company does not make enough money up front, they will not be able to recover from the R&D costs required to make the item. Further, they will not be able to innovate and design the items of the future that you demand. On the other hand, a company uninterested in innovating can sell items with very little profit.
There are more factors that go into price than can fit in one article. On top of that, we each bring emotional baggage to pricing. If we are very price sensitive and want an expensive items very badly, we will think it costs too much. But we might feel differently if the item easily fit within our budget.
This begins to explain why comparing prices is so difficult. It has little to do with the big number on the tag. One tablet from company X is $500. Another similar sized tablet from company Z costs only $100. Which is the better price? You have no idea. It could be that at $100, the tablet from company Z is way overpriced. While the tablet from company X is a bargain at $500.
The tech punditry does such a bad job at comparing prices, it has made me not want to include the prices in my product reviews. At the end of the day, a product is worth it if you love it, and not worth it at any price if you don’t. A week after buying it, you will not remember the price. So buy what you love. And stop comparing it to things that you don’t.
Conclusion: The Mythical Best
It is said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. The same can be said about the best. It is the enemy of the good enough. There is no such thing as the best laptop. No one even knows what that means. Is it the one with the best display, the best keyboard, the best trackpad, the best processor, the best graphics card, the best chassis, the best speakers, the lightest weight, and the lowest price all rolled up into one? If so, then that laptop does not exist. And it never has.
The same applies to smartphones, DSLRs, cars, pizzas, jeans, and everything else you buy. There is no such thing as the absolute objective best. It is always a matter of subjectivity. The best computer I have ever owned was my first Mac: an iBook G3 800 - simply the best. And I don’t know a single person in the world who agrees with me.
We are ruined by benchmarks and detailed comparisons of things that don’t matter. I think we would all be happier when’d we stop chasing the mythical best, and embrace that which makes us irrationally happy regardless of any other factor.