An Essay of Technology


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I’ve been reading an excellent book (well listening to an excellent book) “The Nature of Technology” by W. Brian Arthur. In this tomb he strives to define technology (and by the end of chapter two has done a very good job). Which brings me to of course my response to this.

What is Technology?

First it is hard to imagine my ever finding fault with technology, so this disclaimer first.

  • I work in the technology world
  • I wouldn’t have my sons without the advanced capabilities of modern medicine fueled by technology

But I do question our world of technology often. I find myself able to use things that others struggle with, and then help others use that device (which helps me be better, but they simply move to mediocre) and this bothers me. Things should be simple and easy to pick up and use.

  • I am reminded both of the fictional and reality of “adepts” and what that means.
  • I am reminded of people’s innate fear of technology.

In “The Nature of Technology” Arthur talks about concepts of nature and technology that are blended. He points out that systems often evolve. They are originally collections of components that eventually become a single “technology” although he argues that in fact they are not single technologies, rather groupings or compilations of many technologies into a single “phenomena”.

For many years I was willing to dismiss the inability of technology to gain footing due to the overall limited number of adepts in the world. I’ve dismissed that though as it implies that technology adeptness unlike reading and writing cannot be taught. I’ve always told people in the technology world, want to improve your speaking skills? Go become a 2nd grade teacher for a semester. At the end of that you will have much better speaking skills. The same I believe is true for technology adeptness. You can teach it.

Even a flashing DVD player is right twice a day.

More thoughts on this later…

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The path to convenience


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On my more serious blog (as I am sometimes flippant here) where I don’t often do reviews and frequently talk about things architectural I’ve been diving into a social issue – that of information access.

Something that has bothered me for a long time, the fact that there isn’t an equitable distribution of information. I don’t mean open source software (which I think is probably an idea that should die – why give something away without any hope of recouping at least the time you spent) but more the information that lies beneath the technology.

Open-Information would seem to me to be the ultimate form of equality. If all children start out with the same information there are no advantages to countries, schools or methods. I’ve said it before, a good teacher with the right information and access to many different ways of using the information can take a child far. That means that when that child meets the great teacher they aren’t behind the curve – and they are ready to learn. The old adage, when the student is ready the teacher will appear doesn’t always apply to elementary, middle and high school systems, but it could.

Anyway, I am spending a lot of time thinking about what was, I need to focus on what will be.

 

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What is the right answer?


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In 1975 (maybe 74 the memory isn’t as clear now as it used to be) we were at Boy Scout Camp and watched Skylab go overhead every night. It was an amazing concept to us, watching a spaceship that we put there circle the earth again and again. Every night as it got dark we would scan the heavens (based on the table the newspaper had provided us as to when “Skylab” should be over our heads.

Years later I involved my class in the spacelab programs submitting experiment ideas to the NASA boards every year for inclusion on the space shuttle. My class was watching when Challenger blew up. I was in the back of the room and couldn’t turn off the television in time. I had to send home a note of explanation to the parents as to why I had failed to turn off the television in the middle of a routine shuttle launch to prevent their children from seeing the horrible explosion.

What is the right answer?

I am still confused. Partly that is why I left education, I just didn’t understand anymore. Teaching is about showing both sides of a problem so that the learner can make up their mind. It is challenging not to share your opinion about the situation so that the students can give and develop their own opinion.

In the end that day Challenger blew up was the beginning of the end for me as a teacher.

I didn’t feel the way I felt that day again until September 11, 2001 sitting in an empty office in Chicago Illinois watching the two towers collapse to the ground.

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Where did the summer go?


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7 days in a row with temperatures greater than 95 degrees.

The driest August on record (so far – 4 days to go with no rain predicted).

The summer tears across the Midwest like a thunderstorm – loud and dangerous, and you never know when you will end up with nasty weather.

But it also went fast. I walk and ride my bike as exercise and this summer was tough – but it went by so fast. Part it was with my new job there is much more “summer” work between the two big yearly events and this year was less time than normal. Still the summer seemed to fly by.

Part of it is the anticipation of the new technologies coming Kinect and Windows 7 phone. Those two game changing events are going to be really big this holiday season. The other part I suspect has to do with the kids being older and not needing as much supervision as they did in years past.

It will be a fall to remember!

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An obsession with maps


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It started years ago with a compass and a topographic map in boy scouts. The first time I looked at a topographic map I couldn’t read it at all, but a love was born. Its funny now, looking back on the topographic maps we used all those years ago. Now we have GPS units that can have connections to satellites and views of the trail from space as well as the topographic map.

But it felt like we were explorers and that is where my love of maps comes from. I am a huge fan of GPS units now, because frankly reading topographic maps wasn’t easy. Now, with my gps I can plot a course and evaluate which way to go so that when my walk is done I will have been able to cover the things I wanted.

For example some days I like to climb a lot of hills. I have a route that is planned on my GPS that I can walk along that covers a lot of hills. I like to listen to audible books while walking – so the GPS is kind of critical at that point.

Amazing how things from your childhood become things that you do as an adult.

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Why is it that confusion is the easiest way to deal with everything?


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We’ve been back to school for two weeks now. I say we, because the first couple of post summer weeks the kids kind of go through a withdrawal process that forces the parental units to engage a lot more than we normally would. Although I have to say all three kids get up in the morning better than I do.

This is the first year we don’t have anyone in elementary school. They are high school and middle school aged now – so you would figure they were more used to school, than not used to school. But the reality of the higher levels of school is they have much more to cover and a lot less time – so they hit the books hard the very first day. Going for 8-12 hours of freedom – minus camp and other activities to less than two hours of freedom per day is a hard lump to swallow at first.

Sometimes I wonder if it is harder for me or for them.

I think its harder for me. Part of me is sad (they are growing up) and part of me is excited (they are really a lot of fun to hang out with now).

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At the bottom of the messy desk issue


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The color of my desk is brown (no not from current knowledge – I found a couple of pictures). The carpet on the floor of my office is gray – I can see that.

It is not that I am a sloppy person (although a bit of a packrat). My old excuse was that I traveled a lot and I didn’t have time – now I am busy and don’t travel as much so I still don’t have time.

The other issue I have is one of storage. I posted an idea a while about the multiple USB power strip. I suspect now, that if I knew then what I know now, I would have built one myself. I also would have done the following:

  • pre-wire the house for CAT-6
  • Pre-wire the walls with power strips
  • Run a separate circuit from the street to my office
  • Run additional land lines
  • added a permanent cellular booster

If we ever move – those are the first 6 things I am doing in my new office. I don’t have the lab I used to have (12 to 14 computers) as I am not a line consultant anymore. But I do have a couple of machines – and many HD’s running (multiple copies of the family digital photos).

So, someday my office will be clean.

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