Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thomas Friedman blogging IV – – good tech is friendly tech

Though it is a bit of a side issue, there is another flaw in Thomas Friedman's argument that I'd like to address, as much for future reference as anything else (I plan on getting back to some of these larger questions).

As is been noted previously by others, Friedman's technology is a big, generic, undefined thing. A mysterious godlike force which must be accommodated lest ye be afflicted with Luddite cooties. Commentators like Friedman seldom think of technology as a set of tools, but that's exactly the appropriate framework.

The idea that human adaptability needs to be proportional to technological change is wrong in multiple ways. Advances in technology should produce tools that are more powerful, cheaper, and generally easier to use. All other things being equal, better tech should require less adaptability than less sophisticated tech. Whether we are talking about automatic transmissions or USB ports or natural language processing, the objective is to make things easier.

It's important to step back for a moment at this point and distinguish between the adapting that an individual has to do and what a society has to do collectively. Even the most tech savvy among us struggle now and then with a new development, but if we really are talking about an advance, the learning curve on the new technology should be better than the learning curve on the old.

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