Will magic, I mean technology, save us?

by Bruce Kasanoff on October 19, 2011

If you listen to the media, humanity is doomed. If you visit an Apple Store, life is wonderful. Which is it?

People, including me, are entranced with what technology can do. Explain all you like, but it’s magic, pure and simple. I can’t wait for the next spell.

But why aren’t we actually getting smarter? During the Republican Presidential Debate last night, the candidates were still bickering like kids over whether one did/said/supported something 2/4/10 years ago. Why couldn’t Anderson Cooper pull up the facts and end the bickering?

Tech is great at making us want more tech, but not so good at solving the big problems. No one agrees on how the economy works, or how to fix it. No one can (yet) create millions of new jobs. We can’t agree on whether global warming will drown us or disappear without a wimper.

Companies have spent over a decade installing expensive IT systems, but companies often still act like dolts. Why is it that my iPhone talks to me more than my wife does, but my bank’s ATMs still don’t know what language I speak?

Having been raised under the umbrella of The American Dream, it’s tempting to think that tech will solve our biggest problems just in time. But I’ve now spent a half-century waiting fruitlessly for a tech alternative to carbon fuels.

And even Apple’s batteries run dry quickly when you utilize the coolest apps.

It also worries me that the people who come up with all this magic aren’t necessarily, well, ideal role models. In the Race to Introduce Cool, few stop and think whether New Cool will make our world a better place in which to live.

I love getting a text from my daughter in Sweden that lets me know she’s safe in bed for the night, but don’t love sitting at a family dinner with everyone texting.

Then there’s the troubling issue of the Dark Side of Technology. That gleaming new iPhone or Android may one day rat out your location to your spouse or employer. It may reveal you work 6.2 hours a day versus the 9.7 average of your co-workers.

Yes, technology is like magic. I’m just not yet sure how much we can trust it to solve all our problems.

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