Thoughts on technology

All technologies begin their lives expensive and inefficient.

If technology implies newness rather than imbeddedness, then there was no other way for a technology to begin: if it was already as cheap, and already as efficient, it would not be technology. It would be simply be an item, an option, an aspect of a system.

Technology moves from TECHNOLOGY to Technology to “technology” to tech to option to aspect to subassembly to obsolete.

If a technology is to become an option or an aspect, then its fate is to vanish into ubiquity. Vanishing into ubiquity also means vanishing into invisibility.

All technologies, once ubiquitous, are also boring.

A technology can also vanish into aspect not because of its own senescence, so to speak, but because of the ascendance of a supporting technology. Display technology and power storage show this relationship: vivid portable flat panels relied upon good-enough battery technology and sufficiently clocked processing in order to become part of mobile telephony.

The only way that a technology which has reached ubiquity/invisibility may reappear is if if achieves a new use.

Technology can achieve new use in several ways. One is a marked improvement in its capabilities when it is trapped as an aspect Рbecause even as an aspect, it is always improving.  Vividness, light weight, lower footprint are examples.  A second is a marked improvement in its supporting ecosystem, which extends or expands its current utility.

All technologies solve a problem; upon solving the problem which they were designed for, they create new problems thanks to their ubiquity. Photovoltaic modules are an example: their increasing efficiency and decreasing cost is pushing them further into the energy mix – meaning that now the problem of solar energy is not making a cheap module, but integrating its output in a smart, regulated, balanced way.

All technologies begin as a toy.

Comments are closed.