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It was only a few short years ago I heard the news that banking could be done online. I knew I would never do it; that is, to do banking transactions using my computer at home. I think it was a combination of extra charges for paper and some other activities and the fact that, with all the technology in my life, life simply speeds up and was having trouble finding time to get to the bank. That will be the focus of another article post tentatively to be called Technology at the speed of light.
Well, the above is a great example of getting cornered. When the path of a technological change and the interest or need for that technology by a particular person meet is the point of a corner that convinces that person they need the technology and to keep using the technology from that point on, until that technology is no longer current. What I am saying is that at some point, we all get cornered by a particular technology and will adopt it into our life.
Another axiom I notice is that as a particular technology becomes ubiquitous, it intersects a point on a path of decline for an older system or technology and creates a corner whereby a person must change to the new technology. We can look at the postal system. As more companies begin to offer services online or through other technologies, the postal system is no longer used. I’m sure you can think of several examples. How often do you use the phone to get help with something?
Here is another one. Any new technology that attempts to replace an older technology or system will offer more features and greater convenience with less cost that will entice users. This does not necessary mean the new technology is a better solution.
And still another way we get cornered. As a technology usage appears and begins to improve, one will downgrade their expectations for quality to adopt it, if the new technology is cheaper, more convenient and provides more features. The point when one adopts the technology is another corner. I can remember when computers became capable of doing typesetting. We, who were working in the trade, could not imagine cheap computers improving at this ability to the point that expensive dedicated typesetting equipment would become obsolete. The same thing happened with digital photography. We could not envision a photo made up of pixels could ever be of a quality that could replace traditional photography.
There is something else about digital technology. It will often be too perfect. In the case of audio music, it no longer sounds real or human. Audiophiles, are going back to vinyl records, and tube amplifiers. Vinyl records have imperfections and tube amps hum. If you tune a piano or guitar perfectly, it won’t sound right. In the hands of a musician, who tunes by ear, the instrument sings. A computer can easily emulate a drummer, however, a human drummer never plays every beat perfectly. It varies ever so slightly. When printing press operators were given plates imaged digitally with computers, they had trouble controlling colour.
The point here is that we are used to what is often called colour—imperfections that we tune out. I did state that often a new technology isn’t as good as the technology it replaces, however, digital information is perfect, while analog information is imperfect. Humans are analog and imperfect, so we naturally prefer analog information. Sometimes, imperfections are built into a digital technology. So, we can say that there is a point where we become cornered into accepting the perfection of a digital technology, even though it may be uncomfortable.
And then there is this one. Any new technology that offers new features and conveniences will erode the aesthetic artistic skills involved in the person using it. For example, E-mail and texting has eroded the skills and abilities of people using this medium, to compose good and proper writing. This decreases the impact, clarity, value and accuracy of the message. Yet, everyone accepts it, why, you guessed it.
In a few rare instances, at technology may be impeded by corporations. An excellent example of this is the electric car, or for that matter, any replacement for an oil reliant vehicle. Many years ago, General Motors produced an electric car called the EV-1. It was sporty, performed close to a regular automobile and was affordable. In the end, all these cars were picked up and destroyed. The story is told in a documentary called ‘Who killed the electric car?” Here the cornering is interrupted and the reverse of the usual situation happens until other influences change the direction. In the case of the electric car, one might speculate that corporations and perhaps government, with a stake in the oil industry might slow the introduction of the electric car until pressure from environmental groups and other groups cause a change.
In some cases, the new will become the only way and the old is out. Try to find a pre-recorded cassette tape to purchase. When was the last time you used or even saw a camera that uses film. However, we still have books and magazines that were predicted to disappear.
It is at the point where one adopts a particular technology, either willingly with enthusiasm or out of necessity, a corner occurs whereby a person has little choice but to continue to use the technology. Technologies are always chasing us and attempting to corner us into changing the ways we live do things.