Some reflections for New Year

I love technology, period. Since love is an irrational feeling, it isn't easy to write rational comments about the subject (at least for me), anyway, I'll try to do my best at it.
I was hooked to technology since I was 7 or 8, this was long time ago, at the time computers where huge machines (typically the whole basement of an offices building), and we cheered at the exploit of "simulating" a boxing match between Rocky Marciano and Cassius Clay, so go and do the math... I was hooked anyway, I always loved to make electronic circuits for this and that purposes, like blinking lights and the like.
Also any piece of technology was an object of worship for me. This was probably due to the fact that I was exposed to all kind of vintage electronics equipment since very young, thanks to my friend's father who was subscribed to Practical Electronics and other magazines like it. He built lots of projects with valves and lately, even some with transistors! Unfortunately, he did not live to see computers at home-budget reach.
So, as soon as I could, I managed to convince my parents to buy me an "Electronics Engineer" game that Philips sold in the 70s. This game provided you with the means and instructions to build a number of projects: light detectors, blinkers, radio receivers... I read up the manuals in one day, and started immediately with it, without understanding a lot (actually my first projects did not work because I did not know how to connect a transistor with the right orientation!). When (micro)computers started to appear, I was at the right place at the right time, and managed to work during my University years (guess what did I majored in?.... Telecom engineer, just in case you have any doubt), in one of the very fist computer magazines published in Spain, where I had the opportunity to test drive almost every computer that was marketed.
And this were fun times! not the current PC's and Mac's monotony: Intel, Zilog, Motorola, even Rockwell microprocessors where used in sometimes crazy configurations, all with the desire to conquer the then potential market.
But I digress, my intention for this post is to express my opinions on whether Technology is good or bad for humans. As I said in the previous post, it's rather difficult to establish absolute values, it always depends on the circumstances, but let me give it a try: Technology is good, isn't it?

Why is it good?
For whom is it good?
Can we live without?

These questions and their answers should give us some ideas on the topic.
Why is technology good? Well, unless you are the victim of a techno-initiated disaster, in general terms we can say that technology is good because it makes our life easier. After conquering a majority of physical tasks and liberating humans from them (or at least facilitating them), the technology has been improving our intellectual life, essentially by facilitating our access to information of one kind or another: from trash TV shows to the distribution of doctoral thesis, we can safely say that the world today has full access to any kind of information. Hell, you could even build an atomic bomb with the information you can find in Internet (fortunately, the materials are not on eBay).

For whom is it good? My direct answer is for everybody. Even though many people think they are screwed daily by technology, the balance is definitively positive. We use a train to go to work, drive a car whose computers are more powerful than the mainframes from the 70s, or use an electric toothbrush, for example. Everyone does this or that daily and the advantages are evident.

Or, if you work at an office, just try to remember how you made documents in the past, with typewriters and hand drawings... they were nice, yes, but the effort needed was 10 times more. When working at the magazine, I used to write the articles in a primitive word processor machine, only to print them afterwards and give them to a composer (who used and IBM composer typewriter), for hand-mounting the magazine pages...

Who is against all this? Of course if a company decides to fire 9 out of ten office workers because it needs the same documents as before.... those 9 won't be extremely happy, but fact is, the economy has grown (with notable exceptions, of course) so much that those 9 have found an alternative job eventually. Working more hours probably, but working and making money.

Are we slaves? In a sense yes, we are, and it takes a lot of thinking to be able to survive without being slaved by technology. As usual, common sense should rule: use the best of it, avoid the dependency from it.

Have nice holidays and happy new year!

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