Technology in a Human Context

I was intrigued by a recent article so I sent this email to Cathy:

Hi Cathy,

I just read the write-up on your efforts here:

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/157/cathy-davidson-duke-university-hastac

…and you are so right!

I’ve worked in IT for over 15 years, own an IT company and done IT work for over 300 companies. A couple times during my IT career I recommended against using/deploying technology. These were very specific situations and scenarios where I thought that technology couldn’t fix an operational issue. Once the executives weren’t happy with my recommendation. They thought that technology solves everything, it doesn’t. It is only a tool, to only be used so that a greater purpose is achieved. I’ve noticed this love affair, almost worship of, technology. The recent Lord of Technology that’s captured the hearts of CEOs/CTOs everywhere is the ‘Cloud’. The Cloud can be a useful tool or not – depends on the application of the technology and the business process it is attempting to solve.

In one case, a nonprofit foundation runs several nonprofits including a large and profitable resale shop. The resale shop was staff by volunteers aged 70 and up. A quick survey showed that these volunteers were very against changing their ways and although the resale shop was dependent on these old workers the administration decided, against my advice, to install a POS (Point of Sale) system with barcodes. Money and time were spent and it was implemented but volunteers revolted. The blowback was powerful and the volunteers won. The POS technology was removed from the site.

Technology is also blindly loved at schools. Some think every child must have a laptop and we must move all learning to digital and the kids must be keyboarding experts in 1st grade. Why does this thought exist? Does it help form a child’s mind? No. It is because people do not understand education nor do they understand that technology is only a TOOL. Granted, an important one but it is just a tool. So what, our kids are proficient keyboarders by 3rd grade. Perhaps by the time they graduate college businesses won’t even be using keyboards! Education of our kids should focus on education, critical thinking, logic, reasoning, math, writing, reading, recitation, history and so on. I’m not saying keyboarding or technology is useless or shouldn’t be used but rather it should take it’s place as a tool to learn not the central focus to be concerned about.

 

People miss the fact that technology is a tool, like a hammer is to a carpenter. It should help us accomplish a task; technology isn’t the doer nor is it the task itself. We are the doers and the technology enhances our skills to finish the task. It’s clear to me that technology’s purpose within human society is misunderstood. For example in the school setting it should not replace the development of the fundamentals, after fundamentals are learned then technology aids in the task’s completion. The mistake is thinking that operating a computer is the fundamental skill but it’s not. This is a colossal mistake.

You are right. Our schools, jobs and so on are still operating from the principles of the industrial age. The information age is in it infancy and it’s time to move society towards it. When technology is there but hardly noticed is a sign we are on the right path. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker lived on the farm with his aunt and uncle. They owned advanced technology, it was everywhere, but it had its place – as a tool. It wasn’t worshipped nor did they think they couldn’t live without it but they lived their lives. I’m not sure how to word this correctly but; living a life is life, learning is learning, family is family and technology was a tool to use for their benefit.

The Internet is a powerful tool and yet it potential has not been realized. At some point schools like we have today could be unnecessary and so could large office buildings which house 1000’s of employees. Everything will change – become more decentralized as decentralization is the Internet’s primary power. Decentralization of such magnitude brings change in all areas of human production; economic, education, art, politics, transparency, thought, and more that are not fully comprehended at this time. It is key to know that human life is separate from a computer and its benefits. We should enjoy those benefits but confusing or blending them together is a mistake. Man isn’t a computer nor will ever be one and to treat him as such robs the unique creative power he/she brings into this world.

mpasatieri posted at 2011-7-12 Category: General News