Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Smarter the Technology the Dumber the People

It is hard to read the news these days without being overwhelmed by stories whose key actions can be attributed to ineptitude. Whether it involves software development by drones who know how to use fancy automated tools but lack any basic understanding of how code actually works, slaves to CRM systems who misread the input and sign up health insurance for the family dog (whose name was given as the answer to a security question), or a pilot who lands his large-economy-sized 747 at the wrong airport and can't take off because the runway is too short, it would seem that relying on "advanced technology" is creating a new culture of incompetence. E. M. Forster predicted that support technology would break down because people would become so dependent that they would forget about principles of maintenance. However, he failed to consider the possibility that "smart technology" would erode cognitive capacity to the point where people would do dumb things with it. In the spirit of Yogi Berra, one might say that, if Foster were alive to witness the direction his prediction actually took, he would be glad that he is dead!

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