Monday, January 14, 2013

Soliloquy of a Technocrat

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their employers

Author's note: This post has nothing to do with any technocratic political party. The word technocrat is only used to express the author's viewpoint as described below.


Definitions (As used in this paper):
Technocracy: The synergy of technology and the ideology of democracy
Wealth: Any economic resource including the most basic … food, clothing water etc...

I have always loved technology. From my first color television, to my commodore 64, to my new Kinect, I am amazed every day by the pure wonder that technology can bring to our lives. I remember before my family could afford a PC, I used to read all of the computer magazines and memorize details about the latest computer technologies, waiting and hoping for the day I could get my hands on them. My perspectives have matured, and though I am still like a kid in a candy store with new technologies, I have grown to understand why I love technology so much . I think somewhere deep inside I have always known that technological innovation is of key importance in helping to make the world a better place.

A few years ago I completed a Master’s Degree program in Technology Commercialization at the University of Texas. When I first walked in the door, I was excited to learn about the latest in hi-tech innovation, but I was surprised to learn that they had a completely different definition of what technological innovation is. They spoke of things that typically never came to mind as technological innovation; my definition was far too narrow. Technological innovation started with the beginning of mankind, from cavemen learning and creating new tools and techniques to hunt and gather, to the invention of the wheel and metallurgy, to Adam Smith creating specialized roles in early mills and factories; each of these new tools, methods and processes were crucial innovations no different from the latest robotics and supercomputers. Technology is about new and improved ways of doing anything; be it hi-tech or low.

While that was an important realization, I soon read something that drastically changed my entire perspective on technology … that all new wealth is created by technological innovation. This may sound strange at first, but it is one of the most crucial perspectives that I have learned in life. Keep in mind wealth here refers to economic resources as basic as running water and food. Our world is limited by scarce economic resources, it is full of people who suffer, starve and die every day. Our world has only so much production capacity, and unless there is a way to create new economic resources, there is little hope of increasing quality of life to the poor and suffering throughout the world.

The idea that we can create new economic resources was new to me. I had never thought of the world in those terms but it is true. Without innovation, 1 plus 1 will always equal 2, but when we innovate, we make the miraculous happen … we can make 1 plus 1 equal to more than 2. That is to say we can take the same amount of input, and realize more output. So if an innovation can allow a factory worker to make two pairs of shoes with the same amount of time and energy that it would have taken to make one pair of shoes, then that innovation will help more people in more places to eventually have something as simple as a pair of shoes … or clothing, shelter and food. And beyond economic resources, technological innovation transfers to political innovation. Technology has created an ever-increasing degree of transparency in government, and is what enables grassroots efforts that will reshape existing structures and create new forms of government. Technology has flattened the world, and every day the world grows smaller and different nations become increasingly economically intertwined … which is the most effective way to promote peace.

In my job, I help businesses to use technology to become more efficient … to do more with less. And in doing so that organization will be able to repurpose that money. While some of it may be absorbed by greed, some of it may trickle down to new production, including offshoring and outsourcing which will help to develop a far less mature economy. And as those economies grow they will in turn help others to grow. As those economies grow, caste systems will be eliminated, the middle class will rise, more people will have the opportunity to become educated. Those who would become criminals today could be given the opportunity to have better jobs, and be able to find fulfillment in providing a better quality of life for their families and not turn to violence out of ignorance and desperation.

A lot of people wonder how they can make a difference in the world, but I think we all do every day. Whether you create technology, manage it, or even just use it … each of these roles is so important. The wheel would have no effect if nobody used it nor improved upon it . The same is true of the printing press, or any other innovation which we know has made the world a better place. That is why I believe each of us has the responsibility to learn, and become educated, and to make the most of the gifts we have been given. When I hear of a factory job being offshored, I feel deeply for anyone who loses a job … but I also realize that we here in the wealthier country have the opportunity to become educated and to re-apply ourselves and realize our unique potential … something that many in this world do not have. That factory job could mean that someone who wouldn’t even have basic food and running water, now can.

I believe humanity is evolving and that technology can be used for good or evil, and the more we make use of the time and opportunities that we have been given, the better the world will become. Humanity is evolving, and technological innovation is the fuel that powers the growth and evolution of humanity.

And that is why I love technology. It is so much more than cool toys, it is a basis for who we are and who we can aspire to become. It is something we can utilize to make a difference in the world every day, and something tangible and real that we can see making the world better for all of humanity.

"Science and technology are not just for the already affluent; they can offer so many fresh opportunities for small or very traditional underperforming economies to be transformed into new, shared, and sustained prosperity - and, most important, for enhancement in the quality of everyday life." George Kozmetsky

Art Fewell started working with technology when he graduated from high school at the age of 15. Since that time he has worked for tech giants SBC Communications, Nortel, Cisco and is currently a Fabric Specialist at Dell, where he helps businesses to use technology to become more efficient. In his free time Art enjoys spending time with his wife Dez and his 6 and 8 year old sons Benjamin and Ryan.

2 comments:

  1. This is a very compelling post. I can never really imagine the world without the gift of science and discoveries. Although it's not a requirement for everyone to learn about advanced quantum physics, 5th axis rotary tables, or metallurgy, being aware of the simple concepts and using this as an opportunity to become better really counts a lot.

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