Monday, January 06, 2020

Tech is just a cool tool, folks. Move along now.

For my sins, I occasionally look at corporate PR to see how companies talk about tech. This post by Satya Nadella would certainly win a bunch of Cringe Awards. I was struck (but not surprised) that tech is portrayed as a tool – and not at all as something, as Heidegger argues, that changes everything into stuff-ready-to-be-used (cf. section 2.1 of this SEP entry).

A quick skeptical commentary about some of the case studies in the video:
  • Raymond Campbell, South Africa, mobile health clinic: huge changes in software and HR infrastructure is required for this to work in the field; it’s so much more than a solar-powered backpack and a smiling mother-to-be.
  • Akiyoshi Shinobu, Japan, digitally transformed the restaurant where she worked – probably because they wouldn’t have been able to compete if they hadn’t run to stay in place. The tech means everyone now just expects restaurants have all offer ready to be accessed online
  • Gerardo, Mexico, a young boy getting cancer treatment at place using tech to manage donors and treatment: implicit is the wholesale data-ization of everything involved with care, from money-in to money-out.
  • Kiruna Stad, Sweden, using HoloLens to plan the relocation of the entire city – because a previous generation of technology, iron mining, has led to the entire place sinking into the ground. Every upside has a downside; literally, in this case.
  • Chelsey Potts, Ohio, using the “mixed reality” to learn valuable new skills on the factory floor: the worker is getting a real-time view onto the engineering and training data – and it’s getting a real-time view right back at her. It reminds me of the reverse Turing test introduced by Brett Frischman (SSRN) about humans having to learn how to become indistinguishable from machines.
  • Martin Lee, United Kingdom, wrote more than 40 apps last year for Autoglass: Let’s stipulate the apps make his colleagues’ technician jobs easier. But it’s pretty likely that it’s also making them appendages of, and dependent on, the backend systems. We’re all cyborgs now.
  • David Kellermann, Australia, uses software platforms to connect all his university students, whether they’re in class or online:  ICT now stitches together all the parts of how we live – which means the mindset of its makers become the fabric of our existence.

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