One of the problems with the prevalence of solutions is it overvalues invention and undervalues behavior. We look for a gizmo, when changing how we act can have the desired effect. It seems like we’ve been hoodwinked into a trap of technological dependency.
But, technology is only as good or bad as what we use it to do, and I don’t think anyone who works in tech gets into the field with malice as their intent. In fact, usually the opposite, which is why I like this business. Hell, I’m one of the the folks in technology, so none of this criticism excludes me—I only suggest we stop looking at technology as the primary way to fix problems, and stop turning a blind eye to its negative consequences and to the new problems it produces.
Author Neil Postman argued the same more than 20 years ago when his book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, was first published:
Most people believe that technology is a staunch friend. There are two reasons for this. First, technology is a friend. It makes life easier, cleaner, and longer. Can anyone ask more of a friend? Second, because of its lengthy, intimate, and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful.
But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend…. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that. Nothing could be more obvious, of course, especially to those who have given more than two minutes of thought to the matter. Nonetheless, we are surrounded by throngs of zealous Theuths, one-eyed prophets who see only what new technologies can do and are incapable of imagining what they will undo.
I first read Neil’s words nearly five years ago, and they’ve stuck with me ever since. I’ve found cognizance and respect of technology’s power—the good and the bad, for better or for worse—serve to bridle my appetite for it. For example, scan my Twitter timeline and you’ll be pressed to find a single tweet on any given Sunday from the past seven years. That’s my day of rest from technology (to the extent possible), and it’s a weekly opportunity to assess my dependency on it.
But much like Frank, I’m thrilled to be part of a community that embraces technology in such fascinating, meaningful ways. We’re fighting the good fight, and I’m honored we’re in this together.
Coincidentally, I’ll be speaking on this very subject in the closing keynote at HybridConf later this year.