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The Trouble With Tech

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Can’t remember when or why I wrote this little piece. Might have been the start of a column. Found it on an old hard drive, and it’s still pretty pertinent.

“My favourite quotation on technology comes from John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, a scifi book published in 1969. The novel is set in 2010, far, far in the future. If you read it with the advantage of 21st Century hindsight, it’s funny to see how wrong the author is in many of his predictions for the future.

“For example, he extrapolates a time where American big business controls Third World countries from behind the scene, for commercial gains. Ludicrous!  That’s about as fanciful as saying the US invaded Iraq for oil, I’m sure you’ll agree. But not all of his predictions are as off the mark.

“In one scene in the book, a bunch of people are standing around at a party, discussing the latest technological wizardry on the market. I can’t remember exactly what the gadget does, but it’s probably something like make an elaborate dinner for ten people in five minutes. One woman is overheard saying “They claim it’s automatic, but actually you have to press a button.”

“That about sums up how quickly people get used to the miracle of technology, you ungrateful bastards. Give someone an elaborate multi-billion dollar satellite communications network spanning the globe, and I’ll give you someone who’s whining “There’s never anything to watch on tv.”

“My second favourite quotation on technology is by American writer  Alice Kahn. “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”

(Previously published somewhere, possibly. And the pic I took at the Tate Modern. Rachel Whitehead, I think.)

  1. Not being particularly smart, I’ve always wondered what feature in humanity it was which was accountable for our ability to become so jaded with technology so rapidly. Assimilation of new concepts and behaviors has obvious benefits from the perspective of the species but as an individual apathetic seems hardly a pleasant state of existence.

    I prefer, now and then, to try to fully understand electricity. You know it. We all do. Yet somehow the idea of little particles moving “through” wire in the opposite direction of something which is ‘flowing’ ( but not actually ) almost instantaneously from point a to point b… well it just seems more reasonable to declare it magic and be done with it. Clarke’s Law for the win.

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