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Is “Social Technology” an Oxymoron?

Posted by Charlie Barth On October - 10 - 2011

Since the dawn of time, throughout the growth of mankind, we have experienced an evolutionary seesaw characterized by periods of rich social growth alternating with periods of great technological development. It’s gone something like this…

Perhaps the earliest technological developments were the the discovery of fire, followed by the invention of the lever, the wheel and other early tools.

Then came a shift towards greater social development embodied by prehistoric art forms, cave paintings and sculptures, as well as pyramids, and temples designed to facilitate specific rituals and celebrations.

The seesaw then shifted back toward more technological growth with the development of metallurgy during the Bronze and the Iron ages.

As we continued to step forward in time, the Renaissance, a time known for great artistic expression and philosophical enlightenment, marked a shift back to social development.

Then another shift back towards technological advancement occurred during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the invention and use of machines changed peoples lives, changed our world.

Next, anyone remember the 1960′s? The heart of the 20th century saw technology once again take a back seat to widespread social growth and enlightenment, in many ways, similar to the Renaissance.

And now, as we move into the 21st century, the pendulum once again swings the other way as we witness technological advances outpacing social progress.




But wait a minute… Have we now broken this age old cycle? Has the development of Social Technology caused the growth of our Society to become merged with the advancement of Technology? Has the pendulum stopped swinging? Have we evolved into a society where the ways in which we communicate, interact and express ourselves have become inextricably intertwined with technology?

Furthermore, will we ever progress beyond the ilk of Facebook to something more fulfilling, more meaningful? And if so, what could that possibly be, and when will it happen?

While we may not have direct answers to any of the above questions, we can all agree that technology will always play a role in shaping our future. But without a social purpose, technology becomes… well, just flat technical, and nothing more.

Hopefully, we are evolving towards a place where we don’t just have faster smartphones with better touch screens, but where our lives are actually impacted in a positive way. Where we are more enriched, enlightened and fulfilled.

In his work life, these are the kinds of issues that appeared to concern Steve Jobs on a regular basis. He was clearly able to see beyond mere technology to something bigger. Not just cool new electronic devices, but something that ultimately, actually improved our lives. Steve was a true visionary and he will be greatly missed. Let’s all continue where he left of and keep striving for something greater. What do you say?

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