Why Do Americans Hate Technological Change?

Dan Lyons's provocative question about Why Do American’s Hate Android And Love Apple?, got me to thinking about even larger questions involving my fellow countrymen's relationship to technology.

A.J. Schuler, in his 2003 paper, "Resistance to Change," lays out 10 reasons why people resist change. His first two points may help us understand why we cling to technology that might not be the best for us.

  1. The risk of change is seen as greater than the risk of standing still.
  2. People feel connected to other people who are identified with the old way.

Why Did Macs Never Rule America?

Dan suggests one reason Americans support the iPhone is because "Apple is an American company, and Americans like to root for the home team." He also says "lawsuits against Android phone makers have been an effective form of marketing" and that Apple fanboys have depicted Android users as "low-class people who are uneducated, poor, cheap and too lacking in `taste.'"

While we might like the home team and being part of the cool-guy club, there is more to iPhone love than Apple and its "superior" marketing.

For instance, when Dan asks, “Why do such a huge majority of Americans go out of their way to choose Apple?” he is talking about smartphones - because as a country we are not really in love with Apple’s computers. According to Ars Technica even at their peak of popularity, the computers of Apple have never even been one third as popular as the iPhone.

From 1996 until his death, Steve Jobs tried fairly unsuccessfully to get Americans public to embrace the Mac the way they now love, love, love the iPhone. (As a former Apple employee, this is a problem that I lived first hand.)

For many years after Mac OS X’s initial release on March 24, 2001, it was arguably the best desktop operating system in the world. For one thing, OS X was far more secure than Windows XP. Whole agencies in the federal government could be taken down by a virus or worm attack, but their CIOs would cling to Windows XP like they were married to it.

Many businesses were even worse. And it isn't all about not liking Apple. Many companies still cling to Windows XP when almost anyone with computer experience will tell you that Windows 7 is a far superior operating system. And let's not even talk about Windows 8.

Because Everyone Else Is Doing It - And They Will Help You

So why are the 11-year-old Windows XP and the no-longer-clearly-superior iPhone still so beloved?

It could be because they were the first widely accepted products of their type. While the Macintosh brought us the first graphical user interface, it was never as widely accepted as Windows. People got used to Windows, and the risk of going to something different became greater than the risk of sticking with XP.

In a similar fashion there were smartphones before the iPhone - but Apple's breakthrough was the first one to be widely accepted.

In technology, "being connected to other people who are identified with the old way" also means that you have a support system of people to call if you screw things up.

If you needed assistance when Windows XP broke, you probably knew someone who could help. And if you have a problem with your iPhone, how hard is it to find another iPhone user?

Fast Food - But Not Fast Internet?

It is not just Microsoft’s operating systems or Apple’s smartphone technology that Americans cling to. We seem perfectly happy with slow Internet access that even Russia and the notably technology adverse British wouldn't tolerate.

“Technology adverse British” is actually a slam our friends across the pond do not deserve. The Brits have adopted smartphones faster than the United States.

It's An American Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

Still, I wonder how America, birthplace to the personal computer and so many other technologies, has become so complacent when it comes to adopting the latest and greatest. I worry about the security vulnerabilities caused by our government’s refusal to aggressively diversify its operating system portfolio.

But whatever you think of iPhones or Windows XP, there is one thing that we should all be able to rally around: faster Internet connections.

Once we see the positive results of forcing change even when we are comfortable hugging our cable modems, perhaps change will come easier to us the next time.

That's important, because a "good enough for me" attitude towards technology is not the best way to keep up with the global economy. And we might fall even further behind if our international competitors can see more on their larger smartphone screens.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.