I love technology, and I hate it. I’ll be damned if I can understand it even when I do. It’s a fucking labyrinth sometimes, and I wonder at it, because technology should be usable like bloody a damned car. And this is coming from someone who loves computers and has been using them for over a quarter century, for Christ’s sake. I grew up with technology, but that doesn’t mean I accept it without question.
Today, when people think of technology, they think of computers, but in fact technology is much, much more than that. It’s all around us. It’s in the little chips in our cars. Where are they? Tried to repair a car yourself lately? Twenty-five years ago you still could, with a basic understanding of how motors work and a manual. Try that now.
I can still repair my bicycle without the assistance of a computer, thank God. The Germans have a euphemism for bicycles: wire-donkey. Yeah, I like that. I bet, even a hundred years from now, that I can still repair a wire-donkey, assuming I’m alive, which I won’t be, thank God. Well, thank alcohol, perhaps, or just plain entropy.
But don’t forget, even bicycles are a form of technology. And they are fairly complex, actually. It’s just that they’ve been around for so long that the knowledge of how to deal with them has become common knowledge. If you gave a bicycle to a caveman he wouldn’t know what to do with it, much less how to repair it. But you wouldn’t know how to deal with the technology that was commonplace for him either. Could you repair his spear if it was broken? You probably couldn’t even throw it properly. But you could learn to do so, because the technological principles inherent in these things can be understood by any human of average intelligence. And if you showed him how to ride the bike he’d be off chasing dear on it in no time flat.
What bothers me about modern technology is that it is so complex, so riddled with hidden functions, that no one but a specialist can even attempt to understand it. Often enough even the specialists are stumped.
I’ve had to work with computers and highly technical machines for most of my professional life. How often have I turned to technical support because of rebellious machines only to find they can’t help me? Too often, that much is sure. My approach in such cases, when all else failed, was a sort of intuitive trial and error process. I solved the problem myself then, as often as not, but it wasn’t as if I’d really known what I was doing or had understood why exactly it worked. To my mind, that is not how technology should be.