The Too Big Technological Background

I needed a new phone and in the process changed carriers which means I needed my number ported from the old to the new. A process which normally takes no more than 3 hours and can often be done in minutes took  72 hours over four days, from Sunday afternoon until Wednesday 3pm. I dealt with several people at the store and each were trying to do their job, each was trying to deal with a situation they couldn’t understand along with a customer who kept asking where was the problem and pressuring them to resolve it. Each day brought a new crop of people, each with their own way of dealing with the issue. But none seemed aware of the huge background of technical inputs, processes and technicalities involved. They said first they didn’t have my correct zip code,  when they did, but as I discovered it was probably entered incorrectly. Then they said there was 2 port requests, while the original carrier said there was not. At a loss for what was causing the  delays they blamed the original carrier meaning it was out of their hands, they could do nothing. The point of all this is that whether with phones, or so many other daily necessities, cable, streaming, utilities, banking, all involve a technical backdrop which may be becoming too complex, certainly too complicated for the average person or the average worker. The people I dealt with were good with people, but unaware of potential issues behind the  parameters of their jobs, not out of ineptitude or laziness, and I am not sure due to  poor and inadequate training. They were knowledgeable within the confines of  their very small sphere.  

It’s easy to berate the tech support people we speak to on the phone, to get angry at those who are helping us when they give what looks like wrong answers, it’s easy to be angry at not being helped and be frustrated by the consequences, but the problem, I believe,  is not the workers but the immensity of the technological grid. Each worker is tasked with the equivalent of a piece of the puzzle, and they do what they are  to do, but there seems to be few who can see the whole picture. And as the picture continues to get bigger and bigger, it becomes an issue of concern. It is a concern that includes a lot more than  the smooth functioning of our individual lives, but the functioning of a nation, its national security and relations with its allies.  Several international issues relying on technology and its increasing ability to link, connect, compute, track… reveal the inherent complexities. Human trafficking is one where the technology can help but also add to the difficulties. It all points to the old issue inherent in the phrase too big to fail.  Increasingly we need to keep asking when is big too big for our own good?

Top Technology Policy Issues

Two authors well versed in the state of the world and the state of technology give a yearly list of how they see the top ten technology policy issues facing us. The list is meant to refer to challenges before us as well as challenges technology could address. Given a new decade, this year’s list applies to the 20’s as a decade.

  • Sustainability
  • Defending Democracy
  • Journalism
  • Privacy in an AI Era
  • Data and National Sovereignty
  • Digital Safety
  • Internet Inequality
  • A Tech Cold War
  • Ethics for Artificial Intelligence
  • Jobs and Income Inequality in an AI Economy

One may disagree with the placement of some of these challenges, such as jobs and income inequality but it is difficult not to agree with the items on the list being important. While many of these challenges are self-explanatory, I needed to review their explanation of the journalism item. If I may paraphrase, it is a profession crucial to the survival of democracy whose lower profits over time have caused a decline. The authors hope that technology can foster a revival that will help not only to protect journalists who have been under attack (particularly overseas where journalists can too easily be jailed) but for the whole field.

Because technology has now infiltrated every aspect of our lives, directly or indirectly, the list as a whole has great relevance in in determining our future and shaping needed answers. What is a concern, though, is how little these issues are being acknowledged and addressed by decision makers.

Art and Technology

We still think that art and technology are poles apart and they are, but what we forget is that they go hand in hand to make our world more livable. Amy Wibowo wrote a blog about her experience with the two, a blog which she charmingly illustrated and posted on Medium. It was then reposted on Quartz perhaps because its editors also saw how well she was able to summarize the relationship between them. I would suggest you click on the link and read the post because she cites examples which would be too awkward to list here. We shouldn’t have to choose, she Continue reading “Art and Technology”

Humans Needed

Technology can be full of wonders, but oh it’s far from perfect! We’ve all enjoyed sites that allow us to make travel reservations, from airplane tickets to hotel rooms and car rentals. But we’ve also been frustrated at how complex it can get. We get a fare on a given site and by the time we check another site and go back to the first one, the price we saw is gone. Apparently this is now a common experience. That may be why Continue reading “Humans Needed”