Playing Catch-Up

Ahh…technology. What would we do without it? And, perhaps more to the point, what are we going to do with it?

Little technological malfunctions set me on edge at times. Take last night for example. For the second time in a few months, I experienced a password glitch with my Barnes & Noble account, and I couldn’t sync a book I had just purchased with the Nook’s iPad app. Three minutes of trying later, and by the time I called customer service, I had all but announced my return to paper books out of frustration.

I’m better now, though. Thanks for wondering.

Along more academic lines, there has been a lot of interesting thought ¬†in the past few decades about the metaphysical or theological implications of technology…what we as mankind are attempting to achieve through our progress. One doesn’t have to look far for the perpetual stream of thought-provoking insight on how our technology is changing us even as we create it. What and how we invent, and the things for which we ultimately use our inventions, say a great deal about us as a people.

I remember, for example, checking a book out of the library when I was in elementary school about the city of tomorrow. The book was large, with lots of pictures. I remember that it portrayed cars that traveled on mono-rail type circuits through a futuristic city…cars that you didn’t actually have to drive, but rather simply told an address and let them take you there. Everyone used them in this book, and I remember thinking that this would be a tremendously cool experience. Of course, the concept of intelligent cars was a natural desire to take hold of the America psyche, because we love our automobiles. I remember, when I was young, my father joking about how he wanted a Knight Rider type of vehicle that would leave its parking place and come to the front of the grocery store to meet us. I remember that I sort of wanted that, too, because, again…how cool would that be?

Interestingly, now that the technology exists and is being actively tested, it turns out that there are some interesting legal ramifications involved, beyond the social questions of whether or not we trust our programmers to be able to prevent our cars from getting us into accidents.

Beyond the theological implications of technological development, there is a world of legal quagmire here. Our progress, in short, is decades ahead of our legal system. ¬†Inventors, as it were, travel at warp speed, while law-makers remain in sub-space. Nowhere can this be seen more readily that in the privacy debates that dominate our headlines on a regular basis, to say nothing of how the copyright system struggles to keep up with the unprecedented availability of music, film, and literature available at a moment’s notice.

I’m fascinated at the age in which we live. The technological advances that have occurred since my grandparents’ generation is unprecedented, and now, in my generation, the legal system is scrambling to keep up, largely at the behest of those who stand to make the most money in the new age (as usual). The number of things that could change on a moment’s notice to be no longer free, or to be completely illegal, alternately mystifies and scares me. What is constant is that I’m always amused at how the legal system perpetually moves at a proverbial snail’s pace to attempt regulation of the information sharing that has changed the face of mankind.

I think that, by the time they’ve caught up with our current position, that we’ll be decades further ahead. Which leads me to wonder: what does this sort of information and artistic availability look like with a wholly incapable system of regulation in place? I think we will continue to see the answer to that question play out in the years to come.

Photo Attribution: visual velocity pc

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