Tech Alone Is Boring

I’ve been noticing something about my own interests, changing or evolving over the last few years.  I’ve always been interested in science, the responsible (usually) and exotic parent of technology, the applied stepchild.  In fact, when I was a kid I never thought of technology: science was everything.

After all, all technology is is the application of the hard stuff – science and real discovery – to everyday needs.  Making refrigerators, while others figure out Carnot cycles.

One question that then occurs: is the current fascination with technology not a bit addled?  Isn’t it unbalanced?  How can a nation, or a world, be gaga over technology, and still be teaching Creationism in schools?  If this isn’t the sign of some very twisted mis-evolution of our own, I’m mistaken. 

But the question I’d like to pose in this little posting is a bit different: what is the fascination with technology today?  Who needs another megahertz of this, or to shrink that a bit more, or to cut another ten percent off the production cost?  Why would anyone care? 

Oh, but this screen does this, and that drive is a little faster, and this flash chip is cheaper this year, and IBM is said to be monopolizing mainframes while Rackspace commoditizes servers.  Really?

Without application to human needs, the thrill quickly wears off.  Yes, when it can do something really meaningful, like provide food to a village, or health care, or clean water, then technology really is magic.  But, after all the stories of this kind, how often does this really happen?  Like the short-queens of the hedge fund crowd, aren’t we really, ultimately, just mostly messing with each other, on someone else’s nickel?  Is it a game?  And, if so, is it a game with a hidden cost as large as the hedge queens’?

What can we do to make technology, or anything, meaningful ?  Maybe we need to re-allocate our teams, and put more emphasis on revolution, on real science, and less on evolution, or incremental change.  Will technology be the answer to the world’s energy problems?  Or will we discover that Clean Coal is really nothing but a PR ploy?  How many of us are working on real problems, and how many on improving the next MP3 player?  Can we tell the difference? 

If science for science’ s sake is nothing but intellectual exercise, tech alone is just plain boring.  Why are we so proud of technology, and so mute about science?  We have turned into fools fumbling around with found diamonds from the forest floor, with hardly a sign of the race who first discovered what light was, and then harnessed the laser as an afterthought.

We need to go back to science, not for its own sake, but for ours.