Category: Blogs

It Lost Its Utility

In the chapter I read from James Gleick’s novel, The Information, I was fascinated by the history behind modern technology and the problems pioneers such as Charles Babbage faced when developing them. Innovators such as Babbage, Leibniz, Shannon, and a number of others solved a range of issues, which in effect, set foundation for modern technology as a result.

Thinking about language, while thinking in language, leads to puzzles and paradoxes. – Charles Babbage

Developing a universal language in mathematics was invaluable to the progression of modern technology and science. Babbage, at the forefront of the crusade, played a key role in standardizing mathematical language on a global scale. Without the ambiguities, false metaphors, and confusion behind the meanings of words, Babbage was able to establish a universal language in mathematics into what it is today. “It is always difficult to think and reason in a new language…the dots of Newton faded from the scene, his fluxions replaced by the notation and language of Leibniz” (Gleick).

Something else I uncovered in the book, which I found equally interesting, was how the development of technology has affected our culture throughout the years.

Steam was the driver of all engines, the enabler of industry. If only for these few decades, the word stood for power and force and all that was vigorous and modern… Hot steam generated by burning coal and brought under control by ingenious inventors, had portability and versatility. It replaced muscles everywhere. It became a watchword: people on the go would now “steam up” or “get more steam on” or “blow off steam.” – Gleick

I found this passage of the chapter to be particularly interesting. I recognized that with any and all great technological advancement comes equal cultural influence and change. As Gleick points out, the expression, “blow off some steam,” clearly originated from the awesome power of the steam engine. But where else have we seen the development of new technology influence culture?

The search engine, Google, for example is a revolutionary resource for those with access to the Internet. As a result, it comes as no surprise that this great tool has influenced our culture and way of thinking. People now say things like: “I’ll Google it” or “just look it up on Google”. The simplicity in getting our answers online has changed our culture and the way of thinking indefinitely.

In 2006, Encyclopedia Britannica published its last printed edition of their world-renowned information resource. Encyclopedia Britannica, which has been in circulation since 1771, has now gone digital after 244 years. – Google

The print edition became more difficult to maintain and wasn’t the best physical element to deliver the quality of our database and the quality of our editorial. – Jorge Cauz. President of Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.

So what happened? I can’t even recall the last time I used an encyclopedia. The thought of looking something up in a book to me is redundant and inefficient. As George Biddell Airy once said, “the engine was useless.”

Whatever happened to the encyclopedia is the same that happened to the steam engine, the rotary phone, the typewriter, the VHS player, and what will inevitably happen to the technology we find so innovative and useful today – they simply lost their utility. As new technology takes place of the old what we find useful today will eventually make its way in the attic or in the garbage tomorrow. It’s all simply a matter of time before something new comes along and takes over.

“We All Hit Play”

Legendary electronic dance music (EDM) producer, Deadmau5 (dead mouse), posted a rather controversial article on his blog about what it is EDM artists do on stage.

“It’s no secret. When it comes to “live” performance of EDM – It’s not about performance art, it’s not about talent either (really its not). I think given about 1 hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of Ableton and music tech in general could do what im doing at a Deadmau5 concert.” – Deadmau5

In the article, Deadmau5 admits to “twiddlin a knob or somethin” while on stage. I don’t necessarily find anything wrong with the way he goes about his live “performances,” however, I feel it was wrong of him to make general statements that all artists in the genre perform in the same way. I’ve been a DJ and music producer for over 10 years. I’ve performed in front of thousands of people alongside artists such as Tech Ni9e, Macklemore, Milkman, 3’OH’3, and many more. With my experience alone I can confidently say that not all EDM artists simply “hit a spacebar” when on stage.

If you’ve never seen a Deadmau5 concert before then now is your chance. However, my question to you is whether or not you would still go to his concert knowing he’s not really doing anything under that mouse head? I would probably still enjoy going to one of his shows, but knowing he’s not really doing anything is like hearing Aretha Franklin lip-syncing to your favorite songs.

Deadmau5 Concert:

Other EDM Videos (from artist that actually perform live):

Has Technology Ruined Our Way Of Thinking?

Without a doubt I believe the world has benefited from technology. Every year our planet becomes exponentially faster, smarter, and more connected than the year before. But is all this technology starting to affect the way we think? Research suggests that the answer to that question is both yes and no (of course).

“At one time a screen meant maybe something in your living room. But now it’s something in your pocket so it goes everywhere — it can be behind the wheel, it can be at the dinner table, it can be in the bathroom. We see it everywhere today.” – Matt Richtel

In Richtel’s article, Digital Overload: Your Brain On Gadgetsthe New York Times journalist discusses how technology has impacted our minds and just how strong a hold that little screen in your pocket has on your mind. Richtel’s research involved taking a group of neuroscientists on a week long retreat to a remote corner of Utah in order to observe their thoughts and perspectives on technology as they ventured off the grid. The result? Only after three days of being free from technology the scientists admitted to feeling more relaxed, getting better sleep, having more patience, and even felling less anxious. According to research at the University of California-San Diego, “the average person today consumes almost three times as much information as what the typical person consumed in 1960.” With such a large boom in technology it comes as no surprise that our brains have adapted to the way of the new world. But is it for the better?

“When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring — you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get a little rush of adrenaline. Well, guess what happens in its absence? You feel bored. You’re conditioned by a neurological response: ‘Check me check me check me check me.” – Matt Richtel

On the contrary, Don Tapscott, author of the book, Grown Up Digital, also discusses how digital technology has changed the brain; only this time it’s for the better. Florida State University student, Joe O’Shea, admits to the fact that he prefers not to read books to gather information. Something unheard of in an Oxford student with a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. O’Shea explains, “it’s not a good use of my time, as I can get all the information I need faster through the Web.” Tapscott viewed this statement with a critical eye as he realized that “the digital world provides new ways to learn that can potentially make [the] Net Generation the smartest ever.” Research suggests that what Tapscott calls the, “Net Generation,” has adapted to a new form of learning and thinking. The Net Generation does not “necessarily read from left to right, or from beginning to end. They’re more sensitive to visual icons than older people are, and they absorb more information when it’s presented with visual images than when it’s offered in straight text. This may help them be better scanners, a useful skill when you’re confronted with masses of online information.”

So, has technology ruined our way of thinking? I would have to say technology has certainly changed the way we think, however, I don’t think it’s ruined it. I feel that it’s our responsibility to take a break from technology every once in a while in order to keep some balance in our lives. I’ve always been a fan of moderation so if taking a break from technology will help me maintain a sound body and mind then I see no harm in stepping off the grid for a while.