Luxury:a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort; something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary; an indulgence in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.
The dictionary definition of luxury dovetails nicely with the understood mission statement of the technology industry. While I would argue that technology is not an “indulgence” it does add great ease and comfort to our everyday lives. Is it “absolutely necessary?” Increasingly I am inclined to say yes.
Communications, entertainment, information, data … it as all tied up in the knot of what makes our lives easier, or, at least, more manageable. But the question the TWICE staff faced when planning this issue was, when does technology cross the line from necessity to luxury?
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once described pornography as hard to define, but added, “I know it when I see it.” Those words apply to luxury as well.
Consumer electronics, for decades, were considered luxuries. No one really needed that big color TV, or that hi-fi stereo, but it brought them pleasure, filled up their leisure hours and invited friends and family to experience that pleasure together. For hundreds of years, live music was the only way people could experience music. Then the phonograph landed, and then the radio, and eventually the hi-fi.
Live theater was the province of drama for centuries, and then suddenly there was film, and then TV, and it was luxurious. Our spare time became leisure time.
And now all that is ubiquitous. Music, film, TV — it’s all available on our handheld phones, that we can carry anywhere. Our leisure time, once enjoyed in the hearth of the home, is now in our pockets. Given the backdrop of how our grandparents and parents lived their lives, that seems luxurious to me.
But that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, the unlimited potential of technology continues to make our lives better every day, and most of that technology is relatively affordable, or even downright cheap, compared with decades past.
But humans are funny. We rarely live in the moment anymore. It’s not enough to watch my favorite baseball team on a tube TV like I did growing up. Now I watch on a high-definition panel, picking out friends in the crowd because the image is so sharp.
Hi-Def Audio has brought concert-quality music to my headphones, drowning out the everyday sounds of life even when I’m stuck on the train.
If I could travel back in time and describe today’s everyday technology, most people would be amazed at how luxurious it all sounds.
In the end, luxury is in the eye of the beholder. We take a lot for granted but sometimes its worth taking a step back and thinking about how lucky we are to live in the times we do.
For most consumers, luxury is relative but increasingly attainable. When you have a chance to upgrade that TV, or buy a new pair of crystal clear headphones, often the first instinct is “Do I really need this?” The answer, more times than not is “no.” But in the end, we crave the pleasure that comes from indulging ourselves. That is a luxury.