Neil Postman is the creator of the journal article ‘Five Things we need to know about technological change. Let’s break that down and see what Neil thinks we all need to know.
The first thing we need to know (apparently) is that there is something he calls a trade-off in times of technological change. He gives many examples, but I particularly liked this one. We have been so clever to create the fabulous automobile, but the trade-off is that it has choked our airways with noxious air.
The second thing we need to know (allegedly) are that new technologies are not distributed evenly, they see to benefit some, but harm others. Let’s look at computers. They’re great for people who need them like the military, airline companies and banks, but what about the farmers, the bricklayers and bakers amongst us; it has instead hampered them by making their private matters more accessible to powerful institutions.
The third thing we need to know (supposedly) is that with every form of technology there is a powerful idea, and sometimes more than one, and this can be translated to mean that every technology has a prejudice. Let me explain. If you look at a career such as a television reporter, they value immediacy and not history. And another one, the career of a writer, who favour logical organisation but not proverbs. What of the computer person, does this mean that they value information and not knowledge?
The fourth thing we need to know (unmistakably) is that technological change is not an additive. Let’s break this down. If we place a single drop of coloured dye into a cup of clear water we now have a new solution. The same can be said about technology, it is a drop of coloured dye in a cup that has affected almost everyone on earth.
The fifth and final thing we need to know (unquestionably) is that media has tended to become somewhat mythic. People, at times, think of technological advance as if they were God-given and as if they were part of the natural order of things. This, of course, is a rather dangerous train of thought.
So next time you talk on your phone, or email your friend of stalk someone you haven’t seen for years on Facebook, remember that we all once had a life before technology came along and we have definitely all been affected in some way by its introduction into our daily lives.