Bleak to the Future – April 20, 2012
Bleak to the Future
It’s human nature to want to see into the future, and to imagine the unimagineable –fantasizing in particular about life-transforming technologies. But let’s be wary about predictions that technology will solve our problems and lead us walking hand-in-hand towards a rosy sunset. Or at least to a halycon future of fairness and leisure. A ridiculously long article in the Guardian notes that ours is a fearful culture, and we must get past our anxieties to understand how to harness the future.
Technology is hard
As I’ve noted many times in this blog, the explosion in growth of social media doesn’t mean that everyone gets it and knows how to take advantage. I wasn’t surprised, for example, to read that most people who use social media sites to rank doctors, give them fairly high marks. It caught me off guard, however, when researchers concluded “One Feedback Question May be Sufficient to Assess Patient Experience.” Really? One question? Do you feel that all you need is a thumbs up or down to pick YOUR caregiver?
Technology makes some things worse
As the print and broadcast-based news media struggles through its final death throes, you might want to remember that “just because it’s online doesn’t make it true.” This week, I fell for a patently false story about Ann Romney, published by a parody site (but told to me by a friend as if true). Worse, big news organizations like the Washington Post, desparate to remain relevant, are pushing employees to sift through vast quantities of online stories in order to “surf the wave” of breaking trends. That they sometimes stumble and report fiction as fact, shouldn’t suprise us.
Social technologies won’t eat your brain
Or shorten your commute. At least, that’s one prediction I (perhaps foolishly) am willing to make. True, almost every aspect of daily work and life has been deeply altered by changes in communications (when was the last time you left your cell phone home on purpose). But utopian visions claiming we’ll all live in mixed use, transit friendly, green, sustainable environments just don’t ring true. Compare the incredible advance of social media and device technology over the past 10 years, against the growth (or shrinkage) of your paycheck.