Monday, April 02, 2007

[A] list of technologies that, when they appeared, people said would "create peace" includes battleships, Alfred Nobel's explosives, the radio, the aeroplane, the atomic bomb, television and the internet.

--- David Edgerton, professor of history of science and technology, Imperial College, London, New Scientist opinion piece "The stuff of technofantasy" 29 January 2007

More from the piece:

We also underestimate the importance of some modern technologies and sciences. Take chemistry. It hardly figures in most accounts of 20th-century technology or science, and its absence is barely noticed. But omit computers, even from histories of the 1950s, and your account would be questioned. We can easily exaggerate the significance of technologies, and ignore some really important ones.

Globalisation has very quickly, and for no really good reason, become associated with the internet. We could as easily have had today's globalised world without the internet, but without cheap air travel - carrying people and some cargo - and cheap shipping - carrying most of the world's tradable goods and some people - it would hardly be possible. A type of globalisation driven only by the internet, had it happened, would surely not see so much stuff surging around the world.

. . . .

IKEA subverts the modern and postmodern notions of what we are technologically in another way: it has shifted part of the production and transportation of furniture away from specialist (employed) producers back to the household. The company has created a new middle-class urban peasantry which has to load, transport and build its own furniture, though in new ways, of course.