The perils of technology

I was at a convention recently and the organizers had come out with a downloadable application (app) for people to use in lieu of paper programs.  For the most part the app was a huge success.  The organizers were able to update the information as events required and people got to where they wanted to be.

One slight hitch was that a couple of panels at the convention kept getting switched from room to room or were postponed.  So people had to keep an eye on those panels and some people wound up going to the wrong rooms at the wrong time either cause their app had not updated or they were relying on old information.

A fairly benign glitch to be sure but then again some technological glitches can be more serious.  In other news a car, supposed to be able to avoid collisions, hit several reporters that were there to witness the unveiling.  The car maker claimed that the car was not fitted with pedestrian detection capabilities.  Even though a human was at the wheel he did not brake for the pedestrians because the car did not detect them.

Something fundamentally disturbing about that.  A human operator relying more on the car sensors than his own eyes and not braking.  But I think this is indicative of a trend that I see more and more around me.  People seem to have this innate trust in technology.

We tend to see something new and assume that it is intrinsically good or perfect.  Technology is neither good nor bad, it just is.  What we do with it once it is in our hands gives it context.  Maybe it’s just middle-aged me talking and maybe my parents felt the same way about “new” technologies when I was young.  Maybe it’s been the same story since the beginning of time but I don’t think so.

I think the trend has accelerated in the last ten years.  People, particularly younger people, tend to rely more and more on their technology and less and less on their own judgment and wits.  Hopefully the trend is an aberration and can be reversed.

I would hate to see the day come when we believe more in machines than we do in mankind.

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