As a web developer frequently working with one the world’s favorite technologies, the internet, Neil Postman’s study of modern culture struck me as a highly relevant critique on the quiet, relentless (Boycott Amazon) ways in which technologies shape our lives. Here’s a slightly adapted list of Postman’s questions to ask when presented with a need to create a new technology:
When someone says [insert technology here] will make our lives better, ask them:
- What is the problem this technology will solve?
- Whose problem is it?
- Which peoples and/or communities will be harmed by this technology?
- What new problems might be created if we adopt this technology?
- What sort of people and institutions might acquire special economic and political power because of this technology?
- What changes in language, the generally accepted meanings of words and phrases, are being enforced by this new technology and what is gained and lost by such changes?
- What methods of communication will be introduced or replaced as a result of this technology?
For more information about these questions refer to Neil Postman’s Technopoly: the Surrender of Culture to Technology.