Garfield Nate

Big Fat Hairy Programmer

Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

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Niel Postman: Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We may extend that truism:… To a person with a computer, everything looks like data… every technology has a prejudice. Like language itself, it predisposes us to favor and value certain perspectives and accomplishments. In a culture without writing, human memory is of the greatest importance, as are the proverbs, sayings and songs which contain the accumulated oral wisdom of centuries. That is why Solomon was thought to be the wisest of men. In Kings I we are told he knew 3,000 proverbs. But in a culture with writing, such feats of memory are considered a waste of time, and proverbs are merely irrelevant fancies. The writing person favors logical organization and systematic analysis, not proverbs. The telegraphic person values speed, not introspection. The television person values immediacy, not history. And computer people, what shall we say of them? Perhaps we can say that the computer person values information, not knowledge, certainly not wisdom. Indeed, in the computer age, the concept of wisdom may vanish altogether.

I can’t help but feel he hit the nail on the head in helping me spot my own concerns about how I use computers or even books now. It reminds me of a quote from The High Beta Rich saying that rich people who spend lavishly end up not being able to get out of bed in the morning without $250,000. Because we are so rich in information, we end up craving it and becoming slave to it, instead of learning to accomplish more with less. We need to use information to better ourselves instead of just hoarding it or showering in it.

Another bias introduced by modern computers is multitasking. The machine multitasks, so we also multitask constantly. It’s not good for concentration or productivity (becomes self conscious and switches to editor’s distraction-free mode).

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