January 5, 2006

Technological Determinism

Alwin Hawkins pulls everyone up short in the discussion about links and hierarchy. Dave Rogers' underlying complaint, at least in part, was that Searls and Weinberger put to much faith in technological determinism, in the belief that technology can change things.

Technological determinism is wildly out of fashion in many circles, but Alwin reminds us that, in the end, it's self-evidently true:

Cancer isn’t the slayer of powerful young athletes anymore. Back when I was a kid we got Gale Sayers and Brian’s Song, now we have yellow bracelets and Lance Armstrong. My mom looks around the exercise pool and looks at all the folks exercising who have had cancer. Why aren’t they all dead? Why do they feel like they have time to hang out toning up and slimming down? Why aren’t they out enjoying that last meal, that last drink, that last smoke? Because they are all too busy living. Because of technology.

Ditto cardiac disease. Bypass surgery adds years to careers and vitality to lives. We operate on their hearts without placing them on bypass, without stopping the heart, sometimes - with robotic assistance - without cracking their chests. Or we just drop a little wire basket inside the vessel and stretch it open, crushing the debris along the sides of the walls. Heart attacks aren’t considered a show-stopper that forces retirement, just a warning shot to shape up your act so that you can see your new grandkids graduate from college.

Talk about show stoppers, you couldn't ask for a better argument in favor of technological determinism.