We all understand and recognise the enormous potential for technology to transform our work, our economy, our culture, our society, our lives. We all know the incredible benefits that lie in store from the digital revolution. And we’re all, often painfully, aware of the many downsides that the speed of change wrought by tech innovation can bring, and in many cases already has.
But as we enter a new year, one yet again full of uncertainty due to Covid and fears about an emerging cost of living crisis, how about we all make what may seem a counter-intuitive resolution – to become a little less excited about technology.
If you read some of the breathless “2022 tech predictions” articles on the web, you’d be forgiven for thinking that any day now, we will discard our weak, vulnerable earthly bodies and become reborn through artificial intelligence, robots, internet of things, the latest attempts to convince everyone to wear connected spectacles, and our inevitable and imminent transition to the “Metaverse”.
It is certainly true that we are living through a time of unprecedented opportunities for technology marketing and branding experts.
In the real world, things haven’t gone quite so well at the annual gathering of the tech cults at the CES event in Las Vegas – which bills itself as “the most influential tech event in the world”. Social media has been full of photos of empty hallways where, in pre-Covid times, people would crow about how many hours they queued to be present at the launch of a new mobile phone cable.
This Twitter thread demonstrates the current levels of excitement / absurdity / delusion (select according to personal taste) – with examples of tech firms torturing the English language in their attempts to shoehorn their products into being something to do with the Metaverse.
All the Metaverse can claim at the moment is its entry into the pantheon of technologies that cause otherwise sensible people to get unduly overwhelmed by something that doesn’t exist and won’t exist for many years, and quite feasibly won’t be of any real benefit to many people anyway. Second Life, anyone?
Meanwhile, we are living through the unforeseen effects of many of the technologies that emerged over the past decade – and still working out how to control the often-significant negative social impacts.
New technologies don’t have to be hyped to be exciting. They don’t have to be marketed like a cult. And they do, increasingly, need a much higher degree of common sense and rationality to foresee any possible downsides at an early stage.
For 2022, let’s be excited about technological progress. But let’s not get quite so excited as some might want us to be.