[EAS] Technology Journalism
Peter J. Kindlmann
pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Tue Mar 11 02:47:17 EDT 2008
Dar Colleagues -
There are times when practicality rules, when customers in the
technology marketplace seem more informed and picky, and might even
rise to the status of "tough customers." They have a need they
understand and want addressed effectively. Terms like "demand-pull"
come to mind, like a farmer buying a tractor.
At other times, like now, we are immersed in a cloudscape of ideas,
few of which ever get called to task to really produce or perform,
and very few of which ever perform well and fill an important social
need. In fact, many ideas continuously morph into new forms when
skepticism threatens, allowing them to stay at roughly the same
altitude above reality. At such times the technology marketplace is
more like a carnival, with ardent attempts by barkers to whip up
entrancement among "users." This is "supply-push" and it's become
economic necessity, but rarely alleviates any of our social ills.
These contrasts come to mind as I read the report on the "Ten
Emerging Technologies of 2008" in the MIT publication "Technology
alongside the Technology Quarterly report in the current issue of The
Economist <http://www.economist.com/science/tq/> (this URL also
accesses the previous Quarterly).
Once upon a time, in the 1980s and '90s, the then non-profit
Technology Review was one of the bastions of technology policy
writing, and on my short list of publications to follow closely.
Regrettably in the late 1990s its status became for-profit, it was
decided to banish any technology criticism and to increase
readership. Thus after almost 100 years of publication, it was dumbed
down to a mixture of WIRED, Business Week and Scientific American
(the newer one, after its own similar decline).
The Economist, long grounded by its excellent Science and Technology
section started by the late Richard Casement in the 1970s, and
maintaining terse and probing editorial judgment in a complex world,
generally seeks out technologies that are already at work, often
decidedly less glamorous, like better turbines for power generation.
To their credit, both current reports address the important topic of
If you can spare the time, take your own journey through both
reports. In Technology Review you can go back to 2001, the first year
of their "Ten Emerging Technologies" reports and see how their
earlier predictions fared. The Economist is regrettably stingier and
only makes the last two Technology Quarterlies available for free.
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