The thin edge of technology

It’s a shocking revelation to discover just how thin our atmosphere is when compared to other distances but because we are immersed in it constantly, we take it for granted and intuitively imagine that its influence extends well beyond  the reality.

It’s the same with technology. Because we use technology every day we unconsciously perceive it as all powerful, indispensable, unquestionable. However, the truth reveals the incredibly thin edge of technology.

Here is an example. I was an early adopter of satnav technology. I was an early adopter because of my needs; physically finding unknown addresses throughout the country. The new technology, with its amazing background of satellites and triangulation, allowed me to find an address without much research. The biggest benefit however was when I was stuck in a traffic jam—a few taps on the screen and an alternative route was immediately planned. I could leave the traffic jam and easily negotiate roads around it. In the atmosphere analogy, I was breathing whilst everyone else in the traffic jam was struggling for breath.

Then the inevitable happened, as technology becomes cheap enough and reliable enough, more and more people use it. Today, satnav is everywhere—phones, tablets, stand alone devices… If I get caught in a traffic jam now, I can guarantee that any alternative route planned will be duplicated across thousands of other satnavs in similar cars caught in the same jam and the congestion will merely get spread across a larger area. Any advantage I had as an early adopter is gone and we’re all back to the position before we started.

Similarly, if a government develops the ultimate weapon, for a short time, it has to be respected and obeyed. Once other governments develop their own ultimate weapons, a stalemate is achieved and no one dares use their ultimate weapon. As a result, older technologies have to be employed such as tanks and artillery. The progress is backwards, not forwards.

So the benefits of technology are conferred to the few and are short lived.

I accept that it could be argued that the original benefit of satnavs is still there: finding an address with ease. But my point is that we become accustomed to that ease and we default to an automatic assumption about how life is lived. The car and the satnav are no longer amazing achievements in human ingenuity, they’re simply a means of getting to work and back. Imagine not having any shoes. Sure, it would be tough adjusting to the absence of that particular technology but we managed for millions of years without them and we can do so again.

There is a myth about technology that I’m only just beginning to deconstruct.

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