Technology: Useful Servant / Dangerous Master

July 30, 2014

I was booking a hotel room online this morning and through the process I could not help but think of Christian Lous Lange the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize winning Internationalist.  Although he died 76 years ago Lange was bang on the money when he said that “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”.  Through the course of my hotel room browsing I sensed a hidden hand prodding me in its desired direction.  I was told that 6 other people were currently also looking at one hotel, someone had booked a room in another 13 minutes previously, that there were only 2 rooms left at €79 and somewhat irrelevantly that 9 people from Ireland had stayed in a third hotel in the previous month.  All these data driven facts cast an aura of urgency and uncertainty over my task making the eventual booking a relief, an escape.  I felt like I had been a servant to the technology diligently making the decisions it wanted me to make.

 

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Nowhere is this sense of serving a hidden master more pronounced than with the convergence of social media and mobile platforms.  Here  the pace of life is being dictated by messages from the numerous digital channels we are plugged into – with the average Irish Facebook user checking that platform alone 14 times daily.  The internet can seem like a giant FOMO factory where the need to be in the know and the constant drive to be current becomes overbearing – oh the shame of using a meme that was doing the rounds last week.  Indeed I am even self-conscious of using the term ‘Fear of Missing Out’ to describe the syndrome, is it not a bit last year?

While I am conscious of the irony of someone with the job title ‘Head of Digital’ writing a luddites manifesto we need to make sure that we keep technology working as a ‘useful servant’ and not let it become a ‘dangerous master’ driving our lives at an ever faster pace.  Perhaps we should follow the lead of the Germans, where typewriter sales have doubled in the last 12 months as NSA fuelled paranoia has shifted people offline, and eschew technology and return to the times of Christian Lous Lange.  Or perhaps not.

 

Garret – Head of Digital

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