Saturday, February 6, 2010

do we underestimate the long term effects of technology?

H800 Activity 3

“THE FIRST Law of Technology says we invariably overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies while underestimating their longer-term effects.” (Naughton, 2008[1])

Perhaps the concept of ‘overestimation’ here is more closely linked to a sort of mass hysteria which can develop about new technology – will it undermine society? Might it even destroy the world (Terminator or Artificial Intelligence style)?

When I consider how social and family units have changed over the course of my lifetime, it can be seen that technology has enabled that change, helped us to cope with possible estrangement caused by it, and even started to bring us together again.

For example, my brother emigrated to Canada from the UK in 1973. Would this have been considered a sensible option 100 years earlier? Perhaps in those days he would have been seen as an intrepid explorer (and therefore almost certainly from a well to do family) or would he have been a convict (and therefore almost certainly from a poor background)?

As it was, in those early years after he left we were lucky to get a telephone conversation that wasn’t interrupted – and it certainly cost the earth. So we relied on a different technology – the mail! Nowadays we can contact each other by skype, by e-mail, via social networking, by mobile phone as well as by old fashioned telephone.

More than that: my extended family around the world stays in touch. My professional and learning network has grown through social networking.

But, do we underestimate the longer term effects? I think this is harder to answer. Perhaps what Naughton was driving at was the notion that we simply do not always have the imagination or the courage to grab new technology with both hands and really use it to its full potential.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Andre Gide



[1] The Observer: Business & Media: Media: THE NETWORKER: Thanks, Gutenberg - but we're too pressed for time to read

Access U.K. & Ireland Newspapers

English Español WelshThe Observer: Business & Media: Media: THE NETWORKER:

Thanks, Gutenberg - but we're too pressed for time to read

Observer, The (London, England) - Sunday, January 27, 2008

Author: JOHN NAUGHTON

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