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Tech Won. Now What?


This article is a part of the On Tech e-newsletter. Here is a group of past columns.

Technology gained.

One proof of that victory is that it’s onerous to outline what “technology” even is. Tech is extra like a coat of latest paint on all the pieces than a definable set of merchandise or industries. Health care is tech. Entertainment is tech. Schools are tech. Money is tech. Transportation is tech. We stay via tech.

Technology can be in a liminal part the place the promise of what is perhaps coming subsequent coexists with the difficult actuality of what’s taking place now.

We’re grappling with the advantages and the drawbacks of the nonetheless comparatively latest reputation of smartphones in billions of pockets, on-line buying and the social media megaphones that each assist us construct group and tear us aside. Many persons are additionally leapfrogging forward to a future through which computer systems may more and more predict cancer, beam internet connections from space, control weapons and blur the line between what’s real and virtual.

The “ugh, now what?!” stage of expertise is colliding with the “what’s next?!” part. It’s each thrilling and unsettling.

It’s complicated to know learn how to form expertise that exists at the moment to finest serve human wants, and in addition do the identical for an imagined future which will by no means come. Package deliveries by drone and driverless cars had been among the many applied sciences that insiders predicted could be comparatively frequent by now. (They’re nonetheless each removed from that.) It’s affordable to anticipate that a few of at the moment’s promised improvements will take awhile to go mainstream, in the event that they ever do.

What could also be most uncommon about this “what’s next” second in expertise is that it’s taking place comparatively out within the open, with billions of individuals and energy brokers watching or concerned.

Steve Jobs and Apple dreamed up the primary trendy smartphone largely in secret — though, individuals gossiped in regards to the iPhone lengthy earlier than it was launched in 2007. Today’s Apple and a zillion different corporations are testing driverless cars on public roads and with regulators and the general public peering over their shoulders.

This is one instance of what occurs when expertise is no longer confined to shiny gadgets or pixels on a display screen. When expertise is woven into all the pieces, it doesn’t sneak up on us. Once, maybe, expertise felt like issues that magical tech elves invented of their workshops and handed over for people to adore. No extra. Technology is regular, not magic. And — like all the pieces else on this planet — it may be good and dangerous.

That can typically really feel disappointing, nevertheless it’s additionally wholesome. We have all grown a bit of savvier in regards to the nuanced results of expertise in our lives. Technology is neither the reason for nor the answer to all of life’s issues. (Yes, “Simpsons” nerds, I see you.)

Uber and comparable on-demand trip providers are useful to each passengers and individuals who desire a versatile job. Those providers additionally helped clog roads despite early promises that they would ease traffic, and may need helped popularize a form of perilous work. Technology in our properties helped us muddle via work, faculty and a social life through the previous couple of years. And but it’s so onerous to make a stupid printer work.

Technology didn’t trigger the coronavirus pandemic, nor did it invent vaccines and distribute them to billions of individuals. Social media has contributed to social divisions within the U.S., nevertheless it’s just one of the forces of polarization. Technology might be not the magical reply to local weather change, nor to climbing charges of violence in components of the U.S. Technology can assist us in finding the community that we need, however it might probably’t do the troublesome work of sustaining these connections.

I hope that we’ve change into skeptical however not cynical in regards to the forces of expertise. We can consider that tech might help, and we are able to additionally take into account that typically it might probably do hurt. And sometimes tech doesn’t matter much at all. Technology alone doesn’t change the world. We do.


I wrote this week about my eagerness for more technologies that can give us microdoses of human empathy and connection. And I requested what expertise you needed most in 2022 and past. On Tech readers are sensible! Here are a couple of of your responses. (They have been flippantly edited.)

Stephen Young in New Orleans:

I’d pay to make use of an app that connects me IRL with individuals who share comparable pursuits. It could be so cool to open an app and see a warmth map that signifies the presence of people that share my pursuits (and need to join) and who’re in public locations.

(Editor’s be aware: You can attempt Meetup for the same expertise, though it’s not precisely like this.)

Mo in Vancouver, British Columbia:

I’d like some tech that conjures up me to find time for non-tech actions I used to like however have drifted away from. Things like portray and dancing round for the enjoyable of it.

Jack Schaller in Philadelphia:

I wish to have higher “intelligence” constructed into our e-mail shopper engines to intuitively kind the hearth hose of mail all of us obtain into bins for processing, storing, referencing, and many others.

Gerald G. Stiebel in Santa Fe, N.M.:

I’d like to see tech that helped with the continual points that now we have with our tech. Let us know why Xfinity immediately went out on each of our TVs on the similar time. Why do my Sony headphones beep and cease my music or video till I reset them? Why do my apps immediately change how they work when there may be an replace that “improves” my service?

If there have been one place all this info would seem with suggestions for restore or to revive my apps and interrelated materials, this may take numerous stress off our lives, significantly if we’re over 30.

Andrew in Toronto:

We all lengthy to journey once more. To encounter new locations, to satisfy others and to interact completely different cultures. NOT in the metaverse, however in the actual world.

Where is the expertise that may hearken to what I need, perceive my location and interpret my solutions to offer solutions on issues to do, locations to go and experiences out there to me that meet the necessity for journey, romance, leisure and discovery? What algorithm exists that may determine the issues that may feed happiness and encourage me to discover a metropolis or neighborhood?

Judy S.:

It took me all of two seconds to provide you with this tech I need to have: an automated feed machine that may take one’s previous (actually previous) music tapes / cassettes / CDs and switch / convert the contents to at least one ginormous [data file] price of MP3s.

Aleksi V. in Helsinki, Finland:

The expertise I’d most wish to see in 2022 is something that brings us actual, significant progress on the local weather disaster. I belief that there are various organizations on the market engaged on initiatives geared towards fixing it, nevertheless it feels prefer it’s been some time since I’ve heard of one thing actually impactful in that space. It would simply be good to see one thing that might give me hope for our future once more.

  • Capping an advanced yr for Amazon and its hourly staff: My colleague Karen Weise experiences that Amazon reached a settlement that may give firm staff higher flexibility to prepare unions in its buildings.

  • “Victims really are on their own.” Greg Bensinger from The New York Times’s Opinion part says that Uber’s insurance policies discourage its customer service agents from suggesting that passengers and drivers call the police about claims of sexual assault or different crimes. “Police reports can puncture Uber’s carefully crafted safety image — and open the company up to more lawsuits and responsibility,” Greg writes in his column.

  • Some individuals get tired of their Alexa toys shortly: Amazon sells a lot of voice-controlled sensible audio system and different devices over the vacations. But Bloomberg Businessweek experiences that some years, up to one in four of those new Alexa device owners stop using them inside a few weeks. (A subscription could also be required.)

My favourite model* of “My Favorite Things” is this TikTok duet from the gospel singer Robyn McGhee.

*(Other than Julie Andrews.)


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