Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.
I have seen today’s three word phrase – technology changes everything – used a lot over the past few years, especially by the purveyors of technology. I come out of a background of technology, having worked for various computer companies for about 30 years before I got into real estate. I have witnessed the changes that technology has caused first-hand. I helped introduce that changing technology into many lives and companies and watched the disruption that is causes. I was there when the PC was born and have watched it grow up and evolve.
Having said that, I would assert that technology may change the “when”, “what” and the “how” of things, almost everything; but it does not change the “why”, because that is driven by human nature, which is the who. Technology may allow us to do things completely differently and certainly at much greater speed, but immutable at the core of it all is the human element of why. Why do we work? Why do we communicate with others? Why do we need to know that? Why do we make the decisions that we make? Technology may facilitate any or all of the answers to those questions, but it does not change our answers.
We are the children of a technological age. We have found streamlined ways of doing much of our routine work. Printing is no longer the only way of reproducing books. Reading them, however, has not changed. – Lawrence Clark Powell
Technology has made the work we do different and made the communications easier and faster, but in the end it is still one human being talking, texting, emailing or face timing with another human being. The technology makes that easier but it does not make the human decisions that come out of that communication. Technology may monitor and warn us, but it does not decide what to do about the warning. Even if technology does appear to make a decision, it is through a program, perhaps even “artificial intelligence”, that we humans wrote and coded in our own answer to why.
“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” – Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
In our immediate lifetime much of the progress of technology has focused not as much on replacing humans in repetitive physical tasks but on facilitating faster and faster communications and providing access to more and more data and information. That is a mixed blessing.
Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge. – Daniel J. Boorstin
The fact is that we cannot absorb and assimilate the overload of information that is available or pressed upon us quickly enough to turn it into knowledge. Instead of building our own knowledge base we have become increasingly dependent upon the crutch offered by technology. I do not need to remember or assimilate things anymore because I can just Google a topic to pull up what I need at the moment. Now, through the use of “big data” tools I can have technology scan huge amounts of raw data looking for patterns. What I want to know what those patterns are is still up to me. Why do I need to know that and what will I do now that I know it? Still my call.
Perhaps the most widespread impact that technology has had on us as humans is on the speed and ease with which we can communicate. The issue of distance between people has been vanquished by technology; however, due to the technology, much of what we call communicating has become asynchronous in nature and in the process become less personal, less about communicating and more about exchanging information. Emailing, posting to Facebook or Twitter may be considered to be a form of communications but it is really not communicating – that only happens between two human beings. Texting, while still asynchronous is at least a bit more interactive.
The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it. – Edward R. Murrow
For many, technology has enabled them to be connected to others more and more often. Cell phones have become ubiquitous in the developed world and are even in use in remote regions that used to be cut off from the world. Cell phone technology changed the way we communicate with others but not why.
So, the key take-away may be what technology does not do. Technology does not have a value system, it is agnostic and impersonal. It has no soul. It remains the role of the users of technology to supply that missing piece – the why (the soul).
Yes, technology changes everything; and yet, technology changes nothing. We are safe from the threat of technology that some have imagined because we still supply the soul of the machines – the why they exist.