Tiers of Technology Part 1: The View from the Bottom

manchu pikachu

Technology is strange: it’s not for everyone.

It’s only for the people that have it. 

Technology is easily hidden. It’s invisible in some sense. You don’t have to show that you have it, to have it. You don’t have to show that you took it, to take it.

It’s funny, you can develop technology and still not have it. People do this more than they think.

People think instead about the problems they are given, and solve them, because that’s something else we evolved to do.

Technology comes in two kinds: the kind you can sell and the kind you can use. And there’s some overlap. But if you think about it, if you are developing something that is expensive to develop, you have one or two reasons to do so. One is that you can sell it, and two is that you can use it to make money some other way.

If you want to use it, then you probably don’t want to sell it—unless of course it’s ok with you if everyone else uses it too. Of course there are two ways to make money: the fast way and the slow way. The slow was is by just doing things; the fast way is by doing things differently from somebody else. If you want to make a lot of money, you make it on the differential.

If you think about everyday people, they have, they think, a lot of technology at their disposal. But they have to purchase all of it. Almost none of it is free.

There are tiers of technology; some of us live on different levels. But these levels might not be what you’d expect: I don’t mean an economic or digital divide: I mean that organizations have, or don’t, access to knowledge of different kinds of technology. It is not an even playing field.

It’s going to take me a little while to talk about this. Like any technology developer would, let’s just begin and see where it goes. It’s bound to go somewhere.

Imagine you and I are starting a business. We’ve incorporated. It’s not like we suddenly have available to us every technology relevant to our business, or even those currently in use. We couldn’t even have a list of them, not for any amount of money.

ex. Cameras: I have one in this laptop. It’s not the best, it wasn’t meant to be. It does a great job. Say you wanted a list of every type of camera currently in use. You have infinite money to spend on such a list. Are you going to be able to get that list? No.

We imagine technology as fairy dust, that is sprinkled in the air to make everything better. But technology is more like bearer bonds, printed on paper, kept in a safe, valuable only to the owner/holder. The distribution of it is not uniform, but forms three tiers.

The everyday consumer is at the bottom tier, at the lowest level. Your regular person, with less knowledge about what can be done with things than anyone else I’m going to talk about. If they want technology they have to buy it, and they can only buy what is given to them to buy.

Furthermore, their knowledge and thoughts about technology are really a work of art, and they’re not the artist. The everyday consumer’s knowledge and thoughts about technology are a carefully sculpted collection of mostly crap. At the bottom tier, there is fear. The bottom tier is all about fear. The tiers above try to manage that fear, and that effort alone is the reason why some of the technology we see in stores comes to market–just to manage fear of technology. Because if you can take something scary, and make it fuzzy, it doesn’t even matter if people will buy it: they just need to know about it, so that later they can assume that whatever powers it has been accepted by everyone else, and that they are behind.

This is how the higher tiers manage fear: by making people feel stupid. Well, I’d better say that’s great, I’d better not even think about whether that’s great—wait, I’d better say ‘That’s not even that great!’ And I can say this because I know all about it. Even though I don’t. But everyone else must, so I’d better say that I do too—and never be caught looking into it further. When you feel dumb you can see the emperor’s new clothes, and those who sell technology pull that off. They pull it off all the time.

Kid’s toys are a great example of this.

“Hi, this is my little owl toy I got. It responds to your voice and can mimic your facial expressions.”

“How does it do that?”

“Like this!”

“No, how does it do it? How does it know what you sound like?”

“I guess it has a microphone and a camera. It says on the box it is smart, because it learns what your facial expressions mean. So it has a camera and a microphone, and is smart-enabled*, and .. I like it! It connects to the internet sometimes, for some things. I talk to it. If I whistle a tune, it’ll whistle it back.”

“Well that’s so cute! I can’t think of anything cuter than that!”

If you perhaps think what’s cuter is that I care in the least that a young child has a camera and microphone that occasionally connect to the internet in their bedroom—

                          if you think that’s quaint of me ——-

                                              you’re proving my point.

No, I don’t have to think that’s ok. I really don’t. There’s nothing legal protecting anyone there; there’s nothing that says that toy is safe, in my book.

Children, you shouldn’t talk to machines unless you understand that you don’t know who’s on the other side of them.

That goes for everyone. Let’s make that the end of this blog. Don’t talk to machines, unless you are sure that you have no idea who is on the other side. Because you don’t.

*The opposite of dumb-enabled.