Friday, January 21, 2011

What Kinds of Technologies Can We Not Live Without?

I was recently asked, for an interview in Correio Brazillense, the provocative question: What kind of technology can we not live without? What follows are my very brief thoughts on this:

A decade ago, we would ask ourselves “how did we ever live without our home fax machines?” Today, we have the answer, and we’re doing just fine. There is no technology that we will ever be unable to do without, as long as we support the continued evolution of new technological innovation. It is important to recognize that our allegiance to any technology is to the function that it performs, not to the form that it takes. I have long been addicted to taking images of memorable moments in our family’s life. At one point, I relied upon a simple Kodak Brownie camera, then I used my father's Stereo Realist 3D camera, then a Kodak disc camera, followed by a Canon 35 mm camera, and now a Casio digital camera. My reliance upon forms of image-gathering technologies has moved from one to another, as has my allegiance to the brands that produced these technologies. In truth, I have been chronically disloyal as an adopter of technologies and as a customer of brands, but what has never flagged has been my allegiance to the function of image-capturing. I can do without many different types of technologies, but I cannot imagine doing without my devotion to certain functions that are enabled by evolving technologies.
There is an additional point to make here. There are still some societies where access to information is imperfect. I cannot, personally, conceive of having my ability to gain information -- to hunt for ideas -- be constrained in any way by someone else. I can’t imagine living without free access to ideas!

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