Back from a conference on ‘technology and management’ (Drucker Forum, Vienna), I realise how futile some discussions on ‘technology’ are. We are often discussing ‘technology’ as if it was a single monster: is technology good, or bad? Is it transforming management, yes or not? Is technology replacing jobs? Is technology making A,B,C redundant?
The discussion is flawed. There is no such a thing as ‘technology’ in the quest for answers. You can’t put together in the same basket twitter, Facebook, instagram, email, videoconferencing and artificial intelligence. Well, you can, the conference just did. But this is messy thinking.
Twitter is cold, antisocial, pointless for some and instant social trigger for people mobilization in an uprising for others. Is this good or bad?
Texting is distracted, wasted, addictive activity for some, a way to announce the availability of a doctor in an African village for others (to quote an example of the conference). Is this good or bad?
iPhone is instant multi channel communication of power and reach never achieved by mankind, or a toxic conversation killer, hypnotic, antisocial, nasty disruptive at the family dinner table. Is this good or bad?
The questions are bad questions.
The so-called’ technology’ is challenging us not the ‘what’ we can do: lots. But the ‘why’ we do things. The ‘technology’ is not good or bad. It simply is. We use it because we can, because it’s available. Start with why, please.
Also, to put together all ‘technologies’ in one basket would be the equivalent of debating the merits of the telephone, telegraph and telepathy together.
Comparing Artificial Intelligence ‘technology’ with the ‘technology’ used by Uber, is pointless. The former is sophisticated technology; the later is not a big deal at all.
The real questions are about what all this do for us, how much we want to control, how much is advancing humanity, how much is convenience, fashion, or simple speeding over something that was slow before.
We need to deconstruct the discussion about ‘technology’ and call out those who use it as proxy for anything digital or internet. We can do better at arguing, we can bring better critical thinking.
PS. The modern conference obsession with panels, with panelists giving us our views in minutes and then going to (democratic) ‘debate’ is killing the real discussion. Why don’t we do instead either (a) permanence Q&A, or (b) serious long presentation (I repeat, long. No, I have not gone crazy, not yet. Give me a long, deep, thorough exposition of principles and I will give you back all the ‘panel debates’ that belong to entertainment; and I will throw in most TEDs, sorry)