So Much For Technology
After raising my hopes with fast 4G Broadband speed decoupled from my phone’s hard line, new company Relish failed to deliver their much-touted high speed service thanks to repeated dropout and an upload speed at less than a quarter of the level they’d promised, so the box went back. I love technology, but it’s only as good as the uses you find for it.
This is why I have trouble with SF movies that beam people to other planets. Everything would probably end up like Joe Haldeman’s ‘Forever War’, where soldiers routinely lose limbs or die in the imperfect matter-transportation process. Even crime shows, in which detectives snap ‘enlarge that’ and ‘run a check on this’, now seem unlikely as they’d actually be complaining about missing files and blurred images.
The NHS’s disastrous switch to a computerised patient-file system resulted in doctors returning to paper folders after the computer company underestimated what was required. The path of technology is littered with failures because unlike mechanical innovation, which bedded in over decades of trial and error, it operates on a much narrower R&D margin that needs products to hit the street soon after invention.
Even so, computerisation took more than thirty years to truly arrive. The TV show ‘Tomorrow’s World’ always promised astounding technological changes in the very near future, but to my knowledge they never did follow-up shows to explain what had happened to the tech that never made it.
While there have been incredible advances in medicine and science, we’ve downscaled fantasies about colonising other planets – perhaps the best we can hope for is a decent signal on our mobiles.
Watching ‘The Edge of Tomorrow’, Tom Cruise’s ‘Groundhog Day Meets Starship Troopers’ movie, felt as if we were stuck in a tech-past that had failed to move on, all holograms and exoskeletons, and WW2 images of being dropped from planes, an awkward mash-up of mechanics and computers. Where were the drones of real modern warfare?
The most recent real-life innovation, Google Glass, is already looking as if it will be unlikely to catch on, at least in its present form. And remember when Michael Crichton got all excited about nanotech? What happened to that? We’re still having trouble keeping MRSA out of hospitals. Oh, there’s a lot of excitement about 3D printing, but when the first thing someone makes is a gun, you have to worry for its future.
The health-wristband craze (I took mine off after six weeks because I managed to lose the charger) found a slender market in a health/tech crossover section, and I wonder whether an Apple watch will go the same way – do we really want to go back to strapping things around our wrists?
But the oddest side effect of monitoring-tech has been to turn watches and fountain pens and cufflinks into luxury items as absurd as Faberge eggs, presumably the bling choice of Russian gangsters. Open any glossy magazine (they still have such things as nobody has quite cracked online mags) and the pages are full of them. The real breakthroughs are invisible – safety and health equipment improvements we don’t even notice in our lives.
Feel free to play devil’s advocate here (as if I could stop you).