2007/01/17

Resistance to Technology: "Machines That Think"

All tech enthusiasts, including everyone who is participating in BarCampMadison, March 3 - 4, 2007, should read at least the introduction to Isaac Asimov's book, "Machines That Think."

In that intro he talks about robots, computers and fear, which is a subset of human resistance to technology. He makes some excellent points about how every period in human history has resistance to change, especially technological change. He explains how people romanticize the traditions and practices of their youth, or even of their grandparent's youth, although those traditions and practices had no inherent virtue. In fact, when those traditions and practices were originally established, they were often decried as being radical and a change for the worse.

It would be good for tech enthusiasts to read Asimov's book for two reasons. First, to give them a sense of perspective which will allow them to better understand the technology resistance of those who are less enamored of computers, robots and other cool tech toys and tools. Second, they are very likely to enjoy the stories on both an entertainment fiction level and on an innovation-inspiring level. They may need to stop reading periodically to write down some project ideas sparked by the stories in this anthology.

Do you object to your "pants being smarter than you", or to your machines doing some of the thinking that you used to do (can you say "Google")? Or do you see the possibilities for the future, possibilities which we are only just now beginning to explore?

The rate of change and technological development is just starting to pick up speed. We're approaching the bend in the 'hockey stick' curve of the knowledge economy. Understand and be prepared for the resistance most people will have to the upcoming change.

Most importantly, hang on to your hat, 'cause we're in for a wild ride!

(For an interesting commentary on some of Asimov's robot writings, check out 3 Laws Unsafe.)

*****

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