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Having a Nice Day until Technology Gets in the Way....
Has the Advance of Technology Also Advanced Humanity?

We always like to talk about technology in terms of what it does for us. But what about what technology is doing to us as opposed to for us?

Our attention is constantly focused on what technology does for us because the wonderful tools and machines it has produced have dramatically increased our knowledge and abilities, eased our physical burdens, and added to our convenience and comfort. They have cured our illnesses and extended our lives, fed and clothed us better, and informed and entertained us better, too. They have made us more productive and made business more profitable. As a result, most of us praise its advance and anticipate more of the same with each new development.

But while technology unquestionably has been vastly improving the tools we use to live and work, what effect has it all been having on the kind of people we are and the kind of lives we lead today? What has all this technology been doing to our society and our very humanity?

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Top Ten Problems for People Created by Technology

Consider, if you will, only ten of the most historically impacting problems we mere humans have ever faced as a direct result of our collective rush to advanced technology:

#10. The conversion from a manual society to a society of manuals.

Technology has made it all but impossible for us to use our god-given physical abilities to survive as people have throughout history.

No longer can we earn a decent living with our hands and backs, much less live off the land and nature as we historically have always been able to do. Now we have no choice but to use analytical minds and sophisticated machines if we want to be among the fit who thrive.

But while we as a society expend vast wealth, resources, time and effort to develop ever more technology, industries, markets, products and real estate, we spend precious little of anything to develop human beings.

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The Specialization Infinity Factor
A specialist is someone who learns more and more about less and less
until they know everything about nothing.
— Dobbs Law

We all know what it is to be boxed in by the actions of others or by our own foolishness and stupidity. But have you considered being so completely boxed in you're boxed out of the ability to interact with most other people? If not, you better consider it. Because that's exactly what is being effected by our ever increasing division into specializations.

The ability to interact no longer depends on one's actual knowledge and skills. No, our ability to interact depends entirely on our being eligibile to do so as determined by degrees, certifications, licenses, permits, experience, employment record, credit rating and background check to name a few. And all that must be dealt with by each of us just to get an opportunity to interact. Never mind all the specialized lingo, rules, regulations, procedures, etc, etc, every task now also requires us to learn and deal with.

Take, for instance, a factory or office building where only certified electricians can change the proverbial light bulb. Or a school or university where only certified educators can teach regardless of how much skill and practical experience one may have. Or a hospital, social agency or charity where no one can dispense help to anyone without the proper papers and approvals regardless of how great the need.

Regardless of the instance, it evidences a radical new form of human division.

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The Folly of Teaching the Tried and Proven

A machine today can be told what to do and instantly learn to do it both quickly and accurately on an individualized basis. Such is the technology of artificially-intelligent computers as well as countless simpler things like car seats. But can the humans churned out by our education system do that?

If you ask most employers, both large and small, the answer is no, they cannot. Which is why many employers prefer the machines that do.

That same preference is true of the general public as well. Just ask the customers at banks and supermarkets if they would rather deal with unqualified clerks or smart machines that give them cash and loans on the spot and scan their merchandise quickly at the check-out. Many companies have asked and they put in more machines instead of more people.

The effect of the trend to ever higher tech is that the jobs which require human intelligence are going to machines while the humans being displaced are going to menial jobs at service establishments and small businesses.

Statistics show most of the job growth over the last several decades has been in services and small business, not manufacturing and industry which are in steady decline. As a result the wage the average worker earns today, adjusted for inflation, is down sharply since jobs in the service and small business sector pay significantly less than traditional jobs in manufacturing and industry.

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The Ironic Sudden Reversal of Computer Productivity

As everyone who works with or has looked into buying computers knows, no two systems are alike, not even if they are the same make and model.

In fact, every application of computers involves different equipment and software as well as different skills and different consultants. They also know all that has absolutely nothing to do with actually using a computer. No, all those different specifications and criteria are just for planning, buying and installing the computer system itself.

Be that as it all is, it should logically follow that this unprecedented deluge of computer technology gives us an infinite variety of problem-solving possibilities for all our trouble. However, that is hardly the case. To the contrary, since the bulk of it is incompatible or selectively restrictive, we can configure precious little as we see fit.

As a result, few of us can ever hope to figure out for ourselves what does what and what works with what even if we had the time, money and tech savvy to try. So upon entering this thicket—or more appropriately, this briar patch—most of us quickly realize we have no choice but to buy a package from sales people who say it's what we need, and take their word for it.

The trouble is, those sales people can't understand most of it either, since new models and versions are introduced before sales and support staffs have even mastered the previous ones.

This practice has now effectively reduced the life span of technical information down to about ninety days. And that new reality presents yet another almost insurmountable problem to all involved because the human learning curve is stuck at about six months.

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Information Freeway or Tollway. Which Is the Way San Jose?

The revolution in technology that is marrying the telephone, television, radio and stereo with the computer and the internet is certainly creating a lot of excitement. And rightly so. It is the most important advance in communication since the development of broadcasting.

This new marriage-in-the-making is already creating countless new services and capabilities, all available on demand at the push of a button. It is opening huge new markets and job opportunities, and solving pressing problems in our society from traffic and pollution to health care and crime.

But the way things are going, this new hybrid medium's infinite potential will not ever be truly realized. In fact, if we don't watch out, it will end up creating more social and economic problems than it will ever be worth.

The reason is the many competing interests involved in the new information highway's development: the telephone companies and long distance carriers, the cable and satellite companies, radio and television networks, motion picture studios and music companies, news and entertainment producers, magazine and book publishers, the information and computer industries, product manufacturers and distributors, retailers and service providers, just to start a list with which we are already familiar.

Each of these divergent camps and many others want to design and build a system that is tailored to its own advantage and to everyone else's disadvantage. And each and everyone of them is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to get its way.

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Adapting Technology to Relate to Each Individual
A Whitepaper on emerging challenges and choices in communication prepared for
the World Future Society's 1982 General Assembly on Communication and the Future

by Hamilton Rousseau, Architect & Chairman of the Urban Information Network (UIN)

UIN was a multinational exploratory effort to develop a fiber-optic digital information network
available for free via any analogue TV. Designed by Rousseau in 1979, the visionary research was undertaken in consortium with Corning Glass Telecommunications, Siemens AG of Germany, et. al.

In 1979, John Naisbitt, publisher of the highly respected Trend Report and author of the best-selling book MegaTrends, foresaw that "We are rapidly shifting from a mass industrial society to an information society and the impact will be more profound than the 19th century shift from an agricultural to an industrial society."

Harvard Sociologist David Bell now agrees. So do numerous other top experts who work with or track the realities of technological and socioeconomic change.

Yet no one envisioned the incredible speed at which this shift would accelerate and expand into a radically new global paradigm, especially in communication.

Now we can clearly see that the shift is on parallel course with the emerging microelectronic era and fast approaching what futurists like Isaac Asimov have long termed "the Wired Society."

This new combination spells drastic changes ahead, changes which are far broader and more serious than previously thought and become more so with each new announcement of technological accomplishment. Because this shift from an Industrial Society to an Information Society is now being propelled like a rocket by advanced technology.

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More to Come....

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