I love technology. It is a wonderful toy and servant I have at various times in my life designed, built and repaired equipment that used vacuum tubes and mechanical relays for logic. Let me brag for a moment. I have been a technician through a vast time of changes. In many ways, I see technology from a standpoint that is fully immersed in the history and structure of technology.
The problem with technology is complex. At the very heart of it is a basic compromise. Each step in that compromise is a sacrifice we rarely recognize at the time. To show what happens, let me predict a few things in hindsight and then show that these things hold up as true for the future. Technology first intrudes in our life as a toy. Then technology becomes a tool. After it has become a tool, it then becomes our master. I wish this were not true, but history tells me it is.
Cars were toys for the wealthy before they were tools to get places. Now not spending a large part of your resources on having, maintaining, fueling and insuring a car is in popular perception, embarrassing. The song, “No Scrubs,” has a key repeated point about how worthless someone without a car is. This change happened within my parent’s lifetime and things are just moving faster.
My father had no plastic toys growing up. Such toys did not exist at the time. My father did not have a toy that operated by the push of a button. Imagine that day.
When I was a child there were a few children that had their own phone line. Their families were considered wasteful, doting and wealthy.
Only twenty years ago cell phones were quite rare. People had pagers if they needed to be contacted. Now cell phones are electronic tethers that a lot of people would never imagine willingly being without. I am quite sure that a lot of companies would make a note of anyone applying for a job without having their own cell phone number. Not a positive note. This change happened within the last twenty years.
So I sit at my computer, writing this post with an array of programs and tools running. My desk is filled with conveniences and past conveniences I am loath to dispose of. Perhaps it is because they are still somewhat convenient but they are no longer my master