That Ol’ Technocracy

October 10th, 2005 at 10:53 pm by james

With great power comes great responsibility. Unless, apparently, you manage a nuclear reactor in a developing nation, carry enough storage capacity in your pocket to hold a couple of mid-sized libraries, or are able arbitrarily to publish your rambling thoughts to an unlimited audience of intensely interested strangers. The fact is that the great responsibility bit only kicks in in the middle bit of the hype cycle.

Take nukes for example: early adopters in the forties had something of a cavalier attitude toward them right up until the weight of mutilated corpses necessitated a sudden and visible surge in responsibility – the kind of worldwide responsibility we still enjoy laughing at today; late adopters, as we’re seeing on and off this year, are similarly cavalier because, “Oops, we’re too late to squeeze one iota of competitive advantage from this thing, aren’t we?”

Or overhead projectors, remember those? Ms Sutton was an early adopter. She used them to enable her to break away from mainstream 8-year-old singing lesson fare to lead her little flock twice a week into Don McLean, Merle Travis (via Tom Jones I suspect) and other deeply depressed territory. In 2005 a keynote speaker at a CRM conference talked (loosely) to a set of dingy OHP slides for forty minutes and what I wanted to know (before I walked out) was, “Where did they find an overhead projector for her?” Closely followed by, “Where did they find her?”

The Thing is, the balance is shifting. Early adopters are driving the market, and most of us are early adopters. Consumer electronics is leading the way in a tech landscape that is increasingly driven by early adoption; instead of massive investment up front and a slow crawl into the mainstream market, new technology is released just in time to catch us falling off the initial hype of the previous release. Technology is driving much of life and the way we’re learning to make decisions, in the heat of the hype, fundamentally alters the Way Things Work; for the first time large companies are choosing up front (as opposed to halfway through inplementation) to change their processes and practices to fit with commercial software rather than going to find software that’s a good fit for the way they’re used to working. Of course they are, it’s faster and cheaper and so gives competitive advantage. Reputable companies are implementing Microsoft products in beta. I mean come on!

And my point is? Well, not a very interesting one as it happens. I think it’s cool – more from an interesting-thing-to-think-about, my-goodness-the-world’s-changing perspective than a vacuous consumerist my-iPod’s-smaller-than-your-Library-of-Congress perspective, but there is something about riding a wave of new development that just refuses to break. Of course the ethics of our little technocracy are more than a little questionable, and it’s hardly likely, in an environment in which early adoption is the norm, that responsibility will grow as a factor. In its absence regulation will, of course, but don’t let that depress you …

As Ms Sutton would croon: when no hope was left in site, on that starry starry night, you went down the company store to see if they’d got any iPod Nano’s in yet.

Apologies if this has bored you terribly. I’ll stick to my usual for the rest of the week.

One Response to “That Ol’ Technocracy”

  1. Kerry & Gareth Says:

    Not bored. Definitely not bored. Beautifully written and certainly entertaining. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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