Monday, September 17, 2007

Dependency on technology

Have you ever noticed how, when an organisation's network goes down, people say things to one another like, "Isn't it tragic how dependent we are on computers these days? When the system goes down, everything grinds to a halt." They say this with a sad shake of the head, as if we should have seen this coming and done something to prevent it. Perhaps this is just an indication that the technology has not yet become invisible.

Last night, we had several power cuts in our area. The first started at around 10:30pm and lasted for about an hour, I don't know the exact times or durations of the others, but, judging by the display flashing helpfully on my clock when I woke, I would say that the last one ended at around 2am. Of course all the appliances were disabled, including things like the fridge, the freezer, the kettle, the TV and the power shower. My shower last night was taken under the most unsatisfactory trickle of water. Every alarm clock in the house started flashing 00:00 and failed to go off this morning, resulting in pandemonium when we all woke up late. Our lives were totally disrupted.

If we were to have a power cut at work, we would have to go home - there is no way we could continue our jobs without electricity. How many places of work have a store of candles and torches so that people can continue work in the event of a power cut? I acknowledge that places like hospitals and large food suppliers have back-up generators to keep vital equipment running, but anything beyond that would grind to a halt. Yet we don't hear people tutting over our dependence on it.

I wonder if they did, 100 years ago.

I wonder if there was a time when people said, isn't it tragic how dependent we've become on books, running water, flush toilets, coal, iron, bronze, fire...?

Once a technology becomes so integral to society that it is rendered invisible, it seems to me we stop whingeing about our dependence upon it. Perhaps the day will come when stop seeing our dependence on computer technology as being a sad reflection on the state of society.

1 comment:

Jane Bozarth said...

Amen from the sunny American South! And to chime in: WHY is it that "new" technologies must be commandeered and controlled in ways older ones do not? For instance: If an employee is caught abusing telephone priveleges--too many personal calls, too many long distance charges-- then THAT PERSON is dealt with. But let one miscreant spend too much time surfing YouTube and suddenly there's a company-wide block on streaming videos. Maybe the day is coming when "technology" stops being treated like, well, "technology".