Observing Technology Around Us

From time to time I ask my students to think about how technology is affecting their businesses, their lives, our society and our world as a whole. I ask them to try to speak about technology as augmenting our lives and not taking it over. Our society is shifting and changing and has become an information society. So how can we learn and adapt to new technology that is in the market place?


The best way to learn about technology is to simply observe it around you, interact with it if possible and begin asking how it works, why it is important, if it even is. Sometimes there is a lot of self-marketing clutter that surrounds new products. This language and quasi-fact based statements make it difficult to discriminate marketing hype and truly disruptive technologies that society is adopting.

Start with the immediate and the technology that is within your view. I try to encourage people to interact with technology in a way that is mentally detached in general terms, meaning do not fall in love with one technology, but always use the right one for the right problem. How should react to technology? There are of course weapons and other technology designed to do harm but they are really just tools. This means try to view technology from the perspective of it being a medium and or tool, such as the Internet or television. The Internet is a network (of networks) to connect with other humans and machines. Basically, try not to think of it as good or bad but work hard at gauging how we deal with it; study the disruptions and positive features that come with it. This this leads us to new technologies such as the Ziosk tablet (www.ziosk.com) that is impacting restaurants and helping owners gain more profit by making it easier for patrons to check out.

The Ziosk pushes self-check-out into the hands of customers. It is basically another step in the outsourcing of labor to machines. The restaurant owners that I spoke with reported that tips and other profits have gone up by 15% after the introduction of these tablets at the table. So next time you are at a Chili’s (www.chilis.com) take a look and hands on ride with one of the tablets.

I personally find it distracting to conversation but I might be old school. It does help with the speed of check out and makes is easy to spin the tip amount to 20% if warranted. The point of this is that this particular technology exists. It seems to be helpful to both businesses and patrons alike. It could be construed as speeding up dinner but this could be good and bad. I leave it up to you to determine how it might be impacting us socially. The point is that there is some good and some bad but it depends on your perspective.

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