Help Wanted

March 2004 Archive

What technology wants

What are other examples of leapfrogging?

One of the hoped-for blessings of technologies in the third world is that new stuff can allow them to leapfrog across the dirty industrial development the North has experienced. The first example to come to mind is cell phones in China, which promises to leapfrog over the laborious chore of wiring the large country with land lines. But when it comes to a second example, everyone draws a blank.

Does anyone know of other examples of leapfrogging technology -- where a latter generation of technology leapfrogs over a intermediate generation? At any time in history.

Posted on March 25, 2004 at 1:41 AM
What technology wants

Unpredicted technologies

In his wonderful and little-appreciated classic, PROFILES OF THE FUTURE, Aurthur C. Clarke pointed out that there are two kinds of technology, the expected and the unexpected. As illustration, Clarke made a list of "unexpected" technologies. This include X-Rays, nuclear energy, photography, superconductors, lasers, Carbon 14 dating, and others.

I am very interested in the nature of unexpected or unanticipated technologies and would like to acquire a longer list. I'd love to have nominations of technologies that were relatively unexpected. I can't offer a hard definition of unexpected, since this will vary by expertise and time. Clarke defined "expected" as "concepts that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years" before they became real. I would narrow that to say "concepts that have been around for decades."

What technologies were unpredicted?

Posted on March 15, 2004 at 11:43 PM
What technology wants

What technologies do you reject?

The Amish are famous for rejecting technology, but their pattern of rejection often bewilders outsiders. For example some Amish folk use roller-blade skates, diposable diapers, chemical fertilizers, and even cell phones, while rejecting 110-volt electricity, private cars, insurance, and zippers. I dare anyone to make sense of those decisions, even though there is a logic. The tangle of Amish technology might best be illustrated by their farm combines which are powered by diesel engines yet pulled by horses. Outsiders look at that and go HUH? Why pull a diesel engine with horses? Isn't that hypocritical?

No it's not, and more to the point, I've noticed a similar pattern among my friends. I know a guy who uses the web but not email, or who has wi-fi but no phone. When I press harder I find that MOST of my friends have this neo-amish pattern of rejecting some technology but using others.

So, what I'd like to know from readers here is, what technologies do you reject, and which recent ones do you rely on? If you could also give me some clue to how long you've rejected a technology (6 months or 6 years) that would be helpful. The stranger the dissounance, the better.

I may jump in to press replies for clarity.

Posted on March 2, 2004 at 1:00 AM