The fifth of the five key effects of technology-driven change that I have been writing about, is about the penetration of technology itself, into every aspect of our lives. Technology accelerates its own application.
We all know that technology is more present in our lives now. But unless you’re familiar with the extended Moore’s Law arguments and singularity theories of the likes of Ray Kurzweil, you may not be aware of the extent to which it is present or how fast it is spreading.
This ubiquity is a factor of the price of technology falling and the accessibility rising, to the point where there are fewer and fewer applications to which it cannot be, and is not being, applied. As long as the application of technology confers an advantage on the applier, and subject to a limited set of restrictions at the more dangerous edges, what can be, will be.
The appliance of science
Right now this effect is most obvious with digital technologies, but these are not the only technologies to which it applies. Rather I am talking about technologies in the widest sense: the appliance of science.
Mechanical technologies like the combustion engine are now produced on such a scale that usable cars can be picked up for a few tens of pounds. Basic genetic engineering capabilities can now be acquired at the cost of toys. Where I had a chemistry set it’s entirely possible my kids will have a genetic engineering set at some point in the next few years.
But perhaps it is digital technologies, hard and soft, where this effect is most extreme. On the tech markets of China you can pick up a 4G-enabled smartwatch for $5. Even with shipping you can connect anything you want in your house — or your business — to the internet for a few pounds. Cheap, or even free, software confers huge power on the wielder, to create, communicate, and if they want to, disrupt.
One effect, many impacts
This all has an impact — in fact many.
It has a potential impact on our security and our privacy: what is connected can be tracked, and hacked. It has an impact on our livelihoods: through technology we almost invariably come up with a way to enhance or improve on human capability. Not in the round but in narrow, specific applications, shaving chunks off single roles or whole workforces. It has an effect on our media: many connections means many choices. Many cameras means many broadcasters — the diversity effect I talked about before.
Technology is finding its way into almost every niche, even those — like journalism — that may have looked immune to such a threat only a few years ago. However closed you think your niche is to the advance of technology, the lesson of the last few years is that you are probably wrong.