This article is part of the On Tech Newsletter. Here is a compilation Past columns.
One proof of that success is that it is difficult to define what “technology” is. Technology is more like new paint on everything than a limited range of products or industries. Health is technology. Entertainment is technology. Schools Technology. Money is technology. Transportation is technology. We live by technology.
Technology is also at a finite stage where the promise of what is to come next is coupled with the complex reality of what is happening now.
We struggle with the advantages and disadvantages of the relatively recent popularity of smartphones, online shopping and social media megaphones in billions of pockets. Many are advancing towards a future where computers can predict cancer, Internet connections from space, weapons control and blur the line between real and virtual.
“Oh, now what ?!” The level of technology is “What’s next ?!” Phase. It was hectic and restless.
It is confusing how to design the technology that exists today to better serve human needs, and to do the same for an imaginary future that will never come. Package deliveries by drone and driverless cars are now one of the technologies predicted by locals to be relatively common. (Both are still far from it.) While some of today’s promising discoveries are seldom made, it is reasonable to expect that they will take some time to get to the mainstream.
This “what’s next” moment in technology can be quite extraordinary, happening in a relatively open space, watched or engaged by billions of people and power brokers.
Steve Jobs and Apple dreamed of the first modern smartphone, often in secret – however, people were whispering about it before the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Today Apple and a billion companies are testing driverless cars on public roads and with regulators and the general public. Over their shoulders.
This is an example of what can happen if technology is not limited to glossy gadgets or pixels on the screen. When technology is woven into everything, it will not penetrate us. Once upon a time, technology may have felt like something that magical technology elves found in their workshops and handed over to humans to worship. Not anymore. Technology is ordinary, not magic. And – like everything in the world – it’s good and bad.
It can feel frustrating at times, but it is healthy. We have all grown a little curious about the subtle effects of technology in our lives. Technology is not the cause of all life’s problems. (Yes, “Simpsons” nerds, I see you.)
Uber and similar on-demand riding services are easy for travelers and those looking for a flexible job. Despite early promises that those services would facilitate traffic, it helped to close the roads and may have helped popularize dangerous work. Technology in our homes has helped to disrupt work, school and community life over the past two years. Yet it is very difficult to work with a stupid printer.
Technology does not cause coronavirus infections, and vaccines are not detected and distributed to billions of people. Social media has contributed to social divisions in the United States, but it is also one of the polarizing forces. Technology is not the magic answer to climate change, nor can technology help us find the community we need in the face of rising rates of violence in some parts of the United States, but we can work hard to maintain those connections.
I hope we are skeptical about the powers of technology but not cynical. We can hope that technology will help, and we can also keep in mind that sometimes it can be harmful. And sometimes technology is not so important. Technology alone will not change the world. We do.
Congratulations on your Technology 2022
I wrote this week about my passion More technologies that can give us the microdoses of human sympathy and connection. I asked you which technology you like the most in 2022 and beyond. Those who study in technology are smart! Here are some of your answers. (They are slightly edited.)
Stephen Young in New Orleans:
I would pay to use an app that links me to an IRL with people who share similar interests. It would be great to open an app and see a thermal map showing the presence of people in public places who share (and want to connect) with my interests.
(Editor’s note: You can try Meeting For a similar experience, although this is not exactly the case.)
Mo in Vancouver, British Columbia:
I like some technologies that motivate me to spend time on non-technical activities that I liked but went away. Things like painting and dancing for fun.
Jack Schailer in Philadelphia:
I want the best “intelligence” to be built into our email client engines to intuitively deploy the fireboxes of the email we all receive for processing, saving, and specifying.
Gerald G. in Santa Fe, NM. Steebel:
I would love to see the technology that helps with the ongoing issues in our technology. Let us know why Xfinity came out suddenly on both our TVs at the same time. Why do my Sony headphones make noise and stop my music or video until I reset them? Why do my apps suddenly change when I have an “upgrade” update to my service?
If there is one place, all of this information will appear with suggestions for repair or reset of my applications and interrelated content, which will take more stress in our lives, especially if we are over 30 years old.
Andrew in Toronto:
We all yearn to travel again. Meet new places, meet others, and engage in diverse cultures. Not in metawares, but in the real world.
Where is the technology that explains my answers to hear what I want, understand my whereabouts, and provide experiences that meet the needs of things to do, places to go and adventure, romance, relaxation and discovery? What is the way to find things that make you happy and motivate me to explore a city or neighborhood?
Judy S .:
It took me two seconds to come up with this technology that I want to possess: an automatic feed machine that converts / transforms one’s old (really old) music tapes / cassettes / CDs and contents into one big one. [data file] Worth the MP3.
Alexei V. in Helsinki, Finland.
The technology I want to see in 2022 will bring real, meaningful improvement in the climate crisis. I hope many companies are working towards resolving it, but I feel like it’s been a while since I heard something that really has an impact in that area. It would be nice to see something that can give us hope for our future.
Before we go
Ending a critical year for Amazon and its hourly workers: My colleague Karen Weiss says Amazon has reached a solution that will give corporate workers more flexibility to organize unions in its buildings.
“Victims really are their own.” Greg Pensinger, a commentator for The New York Times, said Uber’s policies do not recommend that its customer service agents call the police about sexual harassment or other crimes committed by passengers and drivers. “Police reports could erode Uber’s carefully crafted security image – and could open the company to more lawsuits and liability,” Greg writes in his article.
Some people get bored quickly with their Alexa toys: Amazon sells voice-controlled smart speakers and other gadgets during the holidays. But Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that up to a quarter of new Alexa device owners will stop using them within a couple of weeks in a few years. (Subscription may be required.)
Hugs for this
“My Favorite Things” My Favorite Version *.
* (Except for Julie Andrews.)
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