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When technology and people meet

Thursday, 31 March 2005 — by

Originally posted on Always-On

God is in the detail but the Devil is in the design.

I recently attended a seminar, the theme of which was basically an investigation of where technology is going and if are we likely to keep up with it.

Many things happened, many things were said and ultimately, society – the perennial injured party in many topical issues of late – got dragged kicking & screaming into the threaded conversation and was used as a convenient foil for any kind of well-intentioned defense of technology.

So here’s my take on things: technology is not evil, nor is it good. Technology is needs-driven and is ultimately the product of a market niche being identified and then filled with one gadget or another to fulfill the needs of that market.

Whether success or failure is the reward for these efforts is another issue all together.

Now, I’ve no doubt any number of you will fill in the gaps in the above summary of the purpose of technology, but that doesn’t matter. I’m not that precious, so if you feel you can fill it out, go for it.

For me, the meat & vegetables of this issue is that of technology being labeled as some kind of socially exclusionary device designed to further fragment our society.

When I hear this kind of thing, it puts me in mind of some James Bond Ubervillain intent on inflicting mass, world-wide misery on each and every one of us. Needless to say, it’s nothing like that. Technology in itself does not exclude anyone.

Recently, an article ran through the press calling for the Friends Reunited website to be closed down because of its hand in allegedly causing divorce among its frequent visitors.

That’s not how it works. If people choose to re-kindle childhood acquaintances and turn them into something more meaningful, then that’s a personal issue, not a fault of technology. What if they happened to find each others telephone numbers? Do we then ban telephones?

We all see people sat on trains and buses listening to their personal stereo, or kids disappearing into their bedrooms after school to play on a games console. Is this them being shepherded into isolation by technology?

No!

I recently went to my sisters house to see my nephew. When I entered his room, he was sat there with three other friends playing a team game on his games console. That’s technology enabling group activities, not excluding people from participation.

What about ‘virtual’ chat rooms with animated avatars for the participants. What’s so virtual about any of this when we have real people conversing and socializing? Do we call telephone conversations ‘virtual talking’?

The bottom line here is that there is no profit to be made in creating technology that makes misery and hardship for those who dig deep into their pockets to buy this stuff.

Technology comes bad only because people choose to do bad things with it, either to themselves or others. But why do I feel like I’m stating the obvious, here?

Virtually everyone knows this, right?

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Onkroes → Friday, 1 April 2005 @ 9:11 BDT

I agree with you (no surprise there), but it takes you back to your other blog (or at least my comment on your latest post) – Logic is no defence!

Take the case of the person who successfully sued a microwave oven manufacturer over lack of labelling when they put their dog inside to ‘dry it’, then they were surprised when it died horribly! Most of us would say “stupid idiot”, but the courts upheld their claim! What message does that send? That it’s okay to be stupid? That it’s okay to not use your brain, or logic, or reason? (that is’t okay to not read the instruction manual?) We’ve heard similar stories for years, and still stupidity reigns.

Technology (by which I take it you mean high-tech electronic stuff rather than basic tools and levers, which are also a form of technology), is just another tool. I’ve said it before and here it is again – “you can’t stop progress”. If you try to ban it, it will either go underground and continue right on, or it will find another way round the ban.

What you rightly highlighted by the ‘friends reuinted’ case is that the real problem isn’t technology – it’s people!
oh what a cynic I am

Wayne Smallman → Saturday, 2 April 2005 @ 11:38 BDT

Logic can’t be held accountable for the short-comings of any legal structure.

When I apply logic, I do so as be inclusive of common-sense rules and exclusive of law.

Why?

Because laws change, implicit right & wrong don’t.

In the incident of dog + microwave, the law was the weak link in the chain, not the logic and certainly not the technology…

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