summing up is a recurring series of interesting articles, talks and insights on culture & technology that compose a large part of my thinking and work. Drop your email in the box below to get it – and much more – straight in your inbox.
The "Next Big Thing" is a Room, by Steve Krouse
Our computers have lured us into a cage of our own making. We’ve reduced ourselves to disembodied minds, strained eyes, and twitching, clicking, typing fingertips. Gone are our arms and legs, back, torsos, feet, toes, noses, mouths, palms, and ears. When we are doing our jobs, our vaunted knowledge work, we are a sliver of ourselves. The rest of us hangs on uselessly until we leave the office and go home.
Worse than pulling us away from our bodies, our devices have ripped us from each other. Where are our eyes when we speak with our friends, walk down the street, lay in bed, drive our cars? We know where they should be, and yet we also know where they end up much of the time. The tiny rectangles in our pockets have grabbed our attention almost completely.
These days almost every room is equipped with electricity, light and buttons to control it. It's so common that we hardly trouble ourselves thinking about it. It is not a device we carry around in our pockets, have to charge up every night and buy a new version every two years – like a flashlight. Imagine how small and lonely a world like this would be, where everyone carries his own, personal flashlight, seeing only one thing at a time and having one hand always busy.
Teaching machines were going to change everything. Educational television was going to change everything. Virtual reality was going to change everything. The Internet was going to change everything. The Macintosh computer was going to change everything. The iPad was going to change everything. And on and on and on.
Needless to say, movies haven’t replaced textbooks. Computers and YouTube videos haven’t replaced teachers. The Internet has not dismantled the university or the school house. Not for lack of trying, no doubt. And it might be the trying that we should focus on as much as the technology.
The transformational, revolutionary potential of these technologies has always been vastly, vastly overhyped. And it isn’t simply that it’s because educators or parents are resistant to change. It’s surely in part because the claims that marketers make are often just simply untrue.
The hype surrounding our technologies is sometimes so pervasive that raising skepticism can often be seen as one's failure to recognize that the hype is deserved. This is the game we're playing. It's no longer about the real transformational power, about real change & potential, but mostly about a superficial pop culture.
Think about how much has changed. Some things have changed without recognition, sadly the way we build software hasn't. There is nothing you do day by day that wouldn't have been familiar to me 25 years ago. Yes, you're using more powerful machines, yes you're using browsers and all this other stuff. But the way you work day to day has not improved.
Most of software development today is based on myth, superstition or arrogance. And this won't change until we're willing to be humble enough to admit when we're wrong. Only then we can find out how the world actually works and do things based on that knowledge.
Want more ideas like this in your inbox?
My letters are about long-lasting, sustainable change that fundamentally amplify our human capabilities and raise our collective intelligence through generations. Would love to have you on board.