This article is a part of the On Tech e-newsletter. Here is a set of past columns.
One proof of that victory is that it’s exhausting to outline what “technology” even is. Tech is extra like a coat of latest paint on the whole lot than a definable set of merchandise or industries. Health care is tech. Entertainment is tech. Schools are tech. Money is tech. Transportation is tech. We dwell by means of tech.
Technology can also be in a liminal section the place the promise of what may be coming subsequent coexists with the difficult actuality of what’s taking place now.
We’re grappling with the advantages and the drawbacks of the nonetheless comparatively current recognition of smartphones in billions of pockets, on-line buying and the social media megaphones that each assist us construct neighborhood and tear us aside. Many persons are additionally leapfrogging forward to a future wherein computer systems would possibly more and more predict cancer, beam internet connections from space, control weapons and blur the line between what’s real and virtual.
The “ugh, now what?!” stage of know-how is colliding with the “what’s next?!” section. It’s each thrilling and unsettling.
It’s complicated to know tips on how to form know-how that exists in the present day to finest serve human wants, and in addition do the identical for an imagined future which will by no means come. Package deliveries by drone and driverless cars have been among the many applied sciences that insiders predicted could be comparatively frequent by now. (They’re nonetheless each removed from that.) It’s affordable to count on that a few of in the present day’s promised improvements will take awhile to go mainstream, in the event that they ever do.
What could also be most uncommon about this “what’s next” second in know-how is that it’s taking place comparatively out within the open, with billions of individuals and energy brokers watching or concerned.
Steve Jobs and Apple dreamed up the primary trendy smartphone principally in secret — though, folks gossiped in regards to the iPhone lengthy earlier than it was launched in 2007. Today’s Apple and a zillion different firms are testing driverless cars on public roads and with regulators and the general public peering over their shoulders.
This is one instance of what occurs when know-how is no longer confined to shiny gadgets or pixels on a display screen. When know-how is woven into the whole lot, it doesn’t sneak up on us. Once, maybe, know-how felt like issues that magical tech elves invented of their workshops and handed over for people to adore. No extra. Technology is regular, not magic. And — like the whole lot else on the earth — it may be good and unhealthy.
That can typically really feel disappointing, nevertheless it’s additionally wholesome. We have all grown a bit of savvier in regards to the nuanced results of know-how in our lives. Technology is neither the reason for nor the answer to all of life’s issues. (Yes, “Simpsons” nerds, I see you.)
Uber and comparable on-demand trip companies are helpful to each passengers and individuals who need a versatile job. Those companies additionally helped clog roads despite early promises that they would ease traffic, and may need helped popularize a form of perilous work. Technology in our properties helped us muddle by means of work, faculty and a social life through the previous couple of years. And but it’s so exhausting to make a stupid printer work.
Technology didn’t trigger the coronavirus pandemic, nor did it invent vaccines and distribute them to billions of individuals. Social media has contributed to social divisions within the U.S., nevertheless it’s just one of the forces of polarization. Technology might be not the magical reply to local weather change, nor to climbing charges of violence in elements of the U.S. Technology can assist us in finding the community that we need, however it could’t do the tough work of sustaining these connections.
I hope that we’ve grow to be skeptical however not cynical in regards to the forces of know-how. We can consider that tech may also help, and we will additionally needless to say typically it could do hurt. And sometimes tech doesn’t matter much at all. Technology alone doesn’t change the world. We do.
Your tech needs for 2022
I wrote this week about my eagerness for more technologies that can give us microdoses of human empathy and connection. And I requested what know-how you needed most in 2022 and past. On Tech readers are sensible! Here are a number of of your responses. (They have been evenly edited.)
Stephen Young in New Orleans:
I might pay to make use of an app that connects me IRL with individuals who share comparable pursuits. It could be so cool to open an app and see a warmth map that signifies the presence of people that share my pursuits (and wish to join) and who’re in public locations.
(Editor’s observe: You can attempt Meetup for the same expertise, though it’s not precisely like this.)
Mo in Vancouver, British Columbia:
I’d like some tech that conjures up me to find time for non-tech actions I used to like however have drifted away from. Things like portray and dancing round for the enjoyable of it.
Jack Schaller in Philadelphia:
I wish to have higher “intelligence” constructed into our e mail shopper engines to intuitively type the hearth hose of mail all of us obtain into bins for processing, storing, referencing, and many others.
Gerald G. Stiebel in Santa Fe, N.M.:
I might like to see tech that helped with the continual points that we’ve got with our tech. Let us know why Xfinity all of a sudden went out on each of our TVs on the identical time. Why do my Sony headphones beep and cease my music or video till I reset them? Why do my apps all of a sudden change how they work when there’s an replace that “improves” my service?
If there have been one place all this info would seem with suggestions for restore or to revive my apps and interrelated materials, this may take a number of stress off our lives, significantly if we’re over 30.
Andrew in Toronto:
We all lengthy to journey once more. To encounter new locations, to satisfy others and to interact totally different cultures. NOT in the metaverse, however in the true world.
Where is the know-how that may take heed to what I would like, perceive my location and interpret my solutions to offer recommendations on issues to do, locations to go and experiences out there to me that meet the necessity for journey, romance, leisure and discovery? What algorithm exists that may work out the issues that can feed happiness and encourage me to discover a metropolis or neighborhood?
It took me all of two seconds to give you this tech I wish to have: an automated feed machine that can take one’s previous (actually previous) music tapes / cassettes / CDs and switch / convert the contents to 1 ginormous [data file] value of MP3s.
Aleksi V. in Helsinki, Finland:
The know-how I’d most wish to see in 2022 is something that brings us actual, significant progress on the local weather disaster. I belief that there are a lot of organizations on the market engaged on initiatives geared towards fixing it, nevertheless it feels prefer it’s been some time since I’ve heard of one thing actually impactful in that space. It would simply be good to see one thing that might give me hope for our future once more.
Before we go …
Capping an advanced yr for Amazon and its hourly employees: My colleague Karen Weise stories that Amazon reached a settlement that will give firm employees higher flexibility to prepare unions in its buildings.
“Victims really are on their own.” Greg Bensinger from The New York Times’s Opinion part says that Uber’s insurance policies discourage its customer service agents from suggesting that passengers and drivers call the police about claims of sexual assault or different crimes. “Police reports can puncture Uber’s carefully crafted safety image — and open the company up to more lawsuits and responsibility,” Greg writes in his column.
Some folks get tired of their Alexa toys rapidly: Amazon sells plenty of voice-controlled sensible audio system and different devices over the vacations. But Bloomberg Businessweek stories that some years, up to one in four of those new Alexa device owners stop using them inside a few weeks. (A subscription could also be required.)
Hugs to this
My favourite model* of “My Favorite Things” is this TikTok duet from the gospel singer Robyn McGhee.
*(Other than Julie Andrews.)
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