The “social shaping” of technologies
- It’s usually a more gradual process than we might thinkDavid (1990) compared the growth of information technology in the late 20th Century to the early days of electricity, an innovation which was also allocated a ‘revolutionary’ label. It actually took several decades for people to learn how to make the most of the new technology and overcome their preference for ‘traditional’ and familiar alternatives. Looking back, it is clear that electricity did fundamentally change how we live and work, but this was not necessarily obvious in the early days.Douglas Adams, in his classic novel “The Salmon of Doubt” summed up the reaction of many people to new technologies as follows:“Anything that is in the world when you are born is normal and ordinary.Anything that is invented when you are between 15 and 35 is exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.Anything invented after you are 35 is against the natural order of things”
- As humans we can shape how technologies are developed and used…for better or worse.
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