Do we create technology, or does it create us? How does technology shape our lives?
We humans created the first instance of technology which began the Technojungle, and a dance. But what has it done for us and what has it done to us? Once technological development starts it can act like the snowball and keep changing—creating, re-creating and re-inventing itself. Remember this is a characteristic of technologies.
Like dancing, we are constantly being re-created and re-invented by our creating of, and use of, our Technojungle technologies. This is happening at an ever increasing rate. How much and how fast the Technojungle changes reduces the time we humans have to adjust and integrate new technologies into our lives. Technology often gets ahead of us in the Technojungle. Sometimes a technology or innovation may disappear and seem to die only to reappear at a time later when we are ready. Apple had a hand-held computer long before the iPad. It was called the Newton (another type of apple). Another early hand-held computer was the GRiDPad. Both were successful, however disappeared for many years.
How is the creation and invention of the internal combustion engine and the automobile a great example of how technology changed humans? As usual, a series of inventions led to the creation of an engine that eats a combustable fuel made from oil called gasoline. It didn’t catch on right away, partially due to expense and partially because people were, more or less used to getting along with what they had and what their parents had used. Henry Ford set out to change all that. He is alleged to have said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford went ahead and created an affordable automobile and that changed the way people live.
Interestingly, some early automobiles dating back to the mid-nineteenth century where electric. Technology which was developed for the internal combustion engine produced faster vehicles with greater range, so the electric automobile disappeared before the technology could mature. We might ask why the internal combustion engine acquired such technological gains? Why was the technology required for a good reliable electric automobile slower in development? What might our lives, society and the world be like had electric vehicles been recognized as the better alternative? Around 125 to 150 years later, a scramble began in order to deal with the outcomes of choosing the internal combustion engine over the electric engine. Technologies for reliable electric cars needed to be developed and then people had to be convinced to change over. This is taking place at the time of writing this book. The electric car is a good example where having some technological insight and oversight would have had a dramatic change in the future. This is exactly the sort of issue we need to be aware of as we safari through the Technojungle.]
Hasn’t the automobile gone on to transform and re-create, not only the lives of humans, but the landscape of the country with a jungle highways? The demand for the automobile became so great that Ford opened larger and larger factories and steel mills employing ever greater numbers of humans in repetitive assembly line jobs that dehumanized and mechanized people. However, didn’t the automobile also created a new group of humans who adapted and could travel great distances quickly and reliably? How did it provide a new freedom that perhaps could be seen as humanizing? That is until one ended up on the road with too many other people in a jungle traffic jam and then it was dehumanizing. What are some of the other ways the automobile, and its industry and related industries, changed humans and the world? How have they humanized or dehumanized?
Do you see that the more we enjoy and rely on particular technologies, the more they can control and manipulate, even humanize or dehumanize, our Technojungle lives? The automobile is a human creation which created a new kind of human with a new freedom and ability to travel around. As you observe a technology on your safaris trough the Technojungle, ask yourself how it is influencing, shaping—creating you and the world? How is it changing your life? How does it humanize and how does it dehumanize you?
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups, a lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it them.”—Steve Jobs, founder of Apple computers Inc.
Our development of, and involvement with, the Technojungle is a bit of a dance with processes of innovation that interact together to build and grow in new directions and ways. Never standing still for a moment. In what ways do humans dance with their technologies to find new ways to live? We can ask, “If this is dancing, who leads?” “Do we take turns?” It comes down to who is in control of the dance. If we lose control of our Technojungle technologies, we will certainly not be leading, will we? We can also ask, “What is the music we are dancing to in the Technojungle?” “Can we hear it, or are we simply following along?” We may not be able to lead if we are not able to hear the music and the beat.
Are we the same humans that we were a thousand years ago? How about a hundred years ago, even fifty years ago? Are we better off? That depends on how you measure being better off. Don’t we still face dangers and many problems just as our ancient ancestors did? The dangers are just different in the modern Technojungle.
As we dance and change our technologies, don’t they change us in both positive and negative ways? Can you think of some examples? Won’t being aware of how we are changed, along with our world around us, help us to make the best choices regarding our use of technology and in being human beings in the Technojungle?
As we design, develop and use technologies, they shape our lives in sometimes unpredictable ways. It is important, as we safari, to maintain a good understanding of how the Technojungle humanizes and dehumanizes us. Part of what makes us human is that we are creative. What are some of the other words related to creativity and how do they differ?