The Technium

Middle Kingdom Technium

[Translations: Japanese]

A reader wrote me with an interesting challenge. He is pursuing an MA at Nanjing University in China. He writes,

My major here is ethnology. The focus of my PhD research is on the issues of technology and society from a cross-cultural perspective. My thesis is going to center around the relationship of minority groups to technology, specifically how technology is being adopted as a social tool and to what extent if any these people are using technology to maintain and broadcast their ethnic identity.
If you had the opportunity and the time to wander through the Chinese countryside for weeks on end talking to people on the fringes of modern Chinese society about technology, what question would you most like to ask them?

China bicycle
Image by Alain Delorme

That is a very good question. I wrote up a bunch I’d like to ask, and I hope he shares them with his contacts. Most of the questions could be asked anywhere. In fact, I’d love to hear the answers from anyone outside of my own tribe. Here they are:

Would your grandparents be happy or worried about today’s technology?

Is it possible to have too much technology?

Can you tell me what the internet is? What is your description?

What kinds of problems today do you expect technology will solve in 5 years?

Is there a technology you think we should un-invent?

If you could implant your phone into your head, would you?


What does China need to become the world’s center of technological innovation?

Are there any downsides to having lots of cheap technology?

What’s one invention you wish scientists would invent today?

What’s more important to your town or village: to have a hospital or to have cell phone coverage?

What are computers good for?

Should China save the old traditional ways of doing things, or just use the modern ways?

Are children getting smarter or dumber?

If you could have a car but it made the air hard to breath, would you get one?

What invention invented during your lifetime surprised you (did not expect) the most?

If I get any answers back, I’ll post them.


© 2023