Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The ideas interview William Davies

On technology making life better...

"Have computers and mobile phones really made the world a better place? John Sutherland meets a man who says no

Legend has it that when IBM began producing commercially viable computers it foresaw that six Big Blue machines would suffice for the whole of the US. These monsters would, of course, be acquired and operated by big business, big government and the military. The notion of a "personal computer" was as alien as an individual citizen owning a personal aircraft carrier.

Now the PC, like the mobile phone, is ubiquitous. We like to think of this leap in technological access for the masses as a good thing. But is it? William Davies takes a sceptical view. Is universal webocracy, he asks, "progress" or merely a pampering of the public? Does new information technology serve society, or merely make its members' lives easier? Should we, Davies wonders, pour so much investment into continually refining a technology whose current primary purpose is to make the world ever more "flexible to the whims of consumers in egocentric and irrational ways"?

The term that Davies has come up with for the downside of universal web connection is "digital exuberance". It has a strong whiff of Alan Greenspan's straitlaced thinking about how to manage the American economy. Is Davies, I ask him, a digital conservative?"   continued ...   (Via Guardian Unlimited Technology)


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