Reading through Neil Postman’s talk about the five things we need to know about technological change got me thinking: How can technology be summed up in five main points?
To add to my curiosity, I found that Neil Postman delivered this talk in 1998. I wanted to see if the points Postman proposed about technological changes were still relevant in today’s technology-saturated world. Technology has changed so much since 1998, so would the same principles hold for how it now functions?
The first idea Postman describes is how technological change is a trade-off and we have to pay a price for it. If technology gets better, we have to give up something: our attention span goes down, we get in car accidents from texting while driving, and so on.
This is interesting because we trade a technological advance for something that usually has a negative effect. We must decide if it is worth it to have these advances if we know that we’re paying a large price for them.
The second idea in Postman’s talk is that there are winners and losers when technology advances. People without adequate access to the Internet or cellphones are thus disadvantaged and gradually fall behind the rest of society that has access to technology.
This can be seen in the limited access that developing countries have to newer technologies. These people are not able to advance as much because they are limited in what they can do with their technology, or lack of it.
Third, every technology has a powerful idea that we often can’t see, but impacts us.
This means that technological advances affect our biases without us really being aware of it. Our interactions with others and even the way we think shifts.
A fourth point brought up is how technological changes are ecological and affect entire systems, rather than being something that is added to a certain system.
With a new technological advance comes a complete change in a political, social, or economic system. For example, stockbrokers today use iPads to conduct their business at the New York Stock Exchange, but in the 1980s they used pen and paper. This economic system was changed because of technology.
The fifth and final point discussed is how media become mythic. Once a new technology comes into play, media is accepted the way it is without any question.
We take it for granted that we can video call a friend who lives across the world and communicate instantly. But this often means that people take technology at face value and do not consider its limitations or the changes that it could receive.
Postman’s five ideas about technological changes and how they affect us are important and increasingly critical to consider as we head further into the Age of Information. They are just as applicable as they were in 1998, and Postman saw the potential problems that would come with technology.