Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Does Technology Solve Real Problems Or Just Manufacture Need?

Professor Darin Barney will be speaking at U of T in a lecture called "One Nation Under Google: Citizenship in the Technological Republic". Dr. Barney has many interesting ideas and thoughts. Back in an interview in 2003, he had this quote:

"In reality, technologies tend to create more needs than they address, and to manufacture the very problems they stand ready to solve. I think of cell phones in this regard. Was the ability to engage in phone conversation while riding the bus really a pressing social need prior to the arrival of the cellular phone, or did our perception of that as a need arise after this technology became widely available? Was the fact that everybody wasn't always accessible, everywhere, via personal communication technology a problem before the mobile phone, or did the expectation of constant accessibility arise in light of increased use of mobile phones and e-mail?"

It's interesting because I most recently had this conversation about instant messenger. If I were pitching IM back in the day, what problem exactly did it solve? None I would suggest. What it did was present an opportunity and expanded the way we connect to each other. It fulfilled a 'human need' in a way that we couldn’t really conceive of it before it existed. And maybe to Dr. Barney's point, it went further and actually created that need in the first place.

Anyway, his lecture on technology and democracy should be thought provoking as well. Tickets are sold out but apparently if you show up chances are you will get in to hear it.


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