I’ve set a high bar for myself – to come up with an interesting Tech Ramble every Sunday to force me to a schedule and a focus. We’ll see how long it lasts.
This week, I’ve been in an introspective mood. It is necessarily nostalgic and is a focus until I sort out some choices I have to make about my future. This influenced what I read, having been let down by the promises of technology in the past, one looks for meaning in what you do. I was looking not for the great philosopher of our time but for my own great philosophy. The next one, anyway.
The first article I’ll toss out there is The 21st Century Philosophers:
…And whether you like their thinking or not, today’s techno-philosophers are incarnating the next generation of big ideas, intentionally tackling fundamental questions about the nature of consciousness and what constitutes the good life, questions that once lived mainly in philosophy departments…
I’d like to think that this is true, that some great philosophers over in Silicon Valley are going to make the world a better place despite the world’s best efforts otherwise. I don’t necessarily agree with them, either, but they have something I do not have. Consumers. It’s not that I don’t have people who have used my work in the past and continue to do so, it’s that I don’t study the popularity of things as large marketing departments do. As an individual, I’ve floundered in that regard because I was taught by people who floundered in that regard and because maybe, just maybe, that’s neither who I am or who I am capable of being.
A fear sits in me that we become that society. A society that markets to us more than listens to us. A society that doesn’t get the best product or service that their money can buy but instead the best marketed product or service. I’m an engineer. I have an admitted bias, but as someone who buys things, I’m also a consumer. I’m a lazy consumer. I quit running Drupal on my own site and paid WordPress for handling the CMS updates for me when I could do it all myself.
So then I read How Intellectuals Create A Public, and I laughed because that fits so well with what I described above – only it’s being done with marketing tools:
…The problem with our public intellectuals today has little to do with their style. It has little to do with their professional location, whether they write from the academy or for the little magazines. It has little to do with the suburbs, bohemia, or tenure. The problem with our public intellectuals today is that they are writing for readers who already exist, as they exist…
That’s exactly what Silicon Valley has been doing. It’s not so much about advancing things to make things better as much as it is to sell things that make people think things are better. I’m sure that there are some well intentioned folks out there, I’m sure that they understand this better than any one of us probably could. It’s how things are done in society. Rocking the boat is a dangerous game, and the status quo does make for easier living of the few. To balance that, Crowdfunding sites have shown how much people are willing to scratch their itches with their wallets, directly.
In How Innovation Became A Whim, this one line put things in focus:
…To steal a line from Carlos Castenada, the path of innovation many have chosen does not have a heart…
I’m not really sure where technology has taken us, but I can say the promises of yesteryear have not yet come to pass.