Christian Long

Kevin Kelly: Technology’s Epic Story

In TED Talks on April 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

Reflection by MIKE N.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Kevin Kelly: Technology’s Epic Story

Kevin Kelly’s talk on technology’s epic story was a very interesting one, and has made me come to appreciate technology even more than I already have.

Kelly begins by discussing when technology became more prominent in people’s thinking. He says the he searched and the first time the word “technology” was used in a State of the Union address was in 1952. This is surprising to me, as I would expect that the word would have been used earlier, perhaps while talking about a new strategy or weaponry. Kelly found that the first use of the word, in 1829, was actually to describe a curriculum that brought together arts, crafts, and industry. This is interesting to me because technology has greatly affected and changed these fields in an uncountable number of ways.

Though, what hasn’t been?

Kelly throws in a joke about Alan Kay’s view, “Technology is anything that was invented after you were born.”

While humorous, this statement does have some truth to it. My grandmother understands how to use everything that she had when she was born, and she has great trouble with things that were invented afterwards, all the way to today. She calls me to ask for help with “all this new technologamagigies”, as she calls it.

I wonder if Kay’s statement can be taken as true for all generations, however.

My generation seems to have no problem adopting new technology, such as iPhones, while our parent’s and grandparent’s generation seem to have trouble. While they can usually adapt to the new technology, I have found that it takes much longer for them to ‘figure out’ a new piece of technology than it does for me. Why this is, I am really not sure. Is it simply because we are younger and our brains are at the learning stage of our lives? Is it because my generation is more open-minded?

I really do not know, and I doubt there is anyone with a concrete answer, but I find it very intriguing.

Kelly discusses what our lives would be like without any technology. He goes as far as to say that humanity would die out very quickly without.

A startling statement at first, but again, a very true one. We’ve all experienced power outages before, and the extreme boredom that accompanies them. After just a few hours without Facebook, I begin to encounter withdrawal symptoms. We depend on technology so much nowadays, from finding the nearest burrito stand to trading a half million shares of stocks. We would be lost without it. And I am only referring to the connotation of the word “technology”. Really, “technology” encompasses every tool we use. If we really lost all technology, we would lose our screwdrivers, knives, hammers, forks, spoons, plates, napkins, fire, spears, bows and arrows, and so on and so on.

To be honest, I don’t think we’d last a day.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that our dependence on technology is a bad thing. I just think that we should be responsible and careful as to avoid something catastrophic from happening. This leads me to the message that I received from Kelly’s talk. I believe that technology is a huge part of huge part of our lives, a “force” as Kelly calls it. Kelly’s talk has made me appreciate the great power that this force has, and one word comes to mind – responsibility.

A special arachnid friend of mine once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I believe this applies to many things, especially technology. The more technology we create, and the more powerful it is, the more dependent on it we become. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but should someone begin to use technology in the wrong way, it could be disastrous. We must use technology to its full potential, while making sure not to abuse it. I think that there is a fine line between these using technology to its full potential and not abusing it, and I believe that in the near future this line will have to be defined and enforced with laws and regulations that are even more strict than those that exist today.


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