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Ramsey Naja: Where is technology’s human touch?


When Neil Armstrong set foot on our neighbouring dust ball, it was widely seen as the greatest achievement in human history. And, boy, what an adventure it was: three guys blasted into the great unknown on the technological equivalent of monster fireworks run on Commodore 64 processing power.

And yet, for all its impressive credentials, the moon shot was, to be brutally honest, a pretty useless piece of work. Besides the obvious chest beating aspects that went towards justifying the existence of every America-is-number-one geezer, the only tangible benefits for humanity were the improvement in our ability to bomb each other from further away. Indeed, much of the technological developments of the moon programmes era were hardly of any use at all, connected as they were with the overriding imperatives of the
Cold War.

Today, technology is increasingly driven by the need to solve practical, everyday problems, and far more on a domestic and personal level. In the priorities league, putting a man on Jupiter would today be second division to the need of saving fuel for the work commute. It really seems we have become positively egotistical in the tech arena.

Simultaneously, another brand of tech selfishness is infecting our own industry. Now I don’t want to sound negative in my view of comms-based technology.
In fact, I am a hugely excited by the opportunities offered by it. The trouble is, instead of it being
aimed at addressing real human issues, much of it
feels like schoolboys’ fantasies. Indeed tech conventions are so obsessed with the cool factor they seem to be losing sight of what technology is actually for.
Aldous Huxley once said that, at its best, technology
is indistinguishable from magic. But the most impressive magical tricks are not rabbits out of a hat
to please children. They are not even commutes to remote planets. The greatest feats that technology can conjure up are the ones that deal with our frailty as human beings and, while a stand showcasing the next big space programme on a virtual reality headset are always welcome, the ones that are glaringly missing from tech shows are, more often than not, those associated with medicine.