Constant Flux

University Hall

Often technology seems like a microcosmos consisting of flux as its main component. Technology has always been the driving force behind human progress, and progress obides change.

While working in the digital realm, everything seems moldable, changeable, inter-changeable. It’s a marvel of constant challenge and a great place to work. But at the same time, the product of our work in the digital is never done. It is released, but it’s never quite finished. There’s always something that can be tweaked, something that can be achieved more elegantly. If not now, then at least in a few weeks worth of time, when technology has changed and the new possbilities have arisen. It’s the challenge of flux.

When in need of a break from the digital world I like to pour myself a whisky, preferably a Scotch Single Malt. To call itself a Scotch, the whisky has to have matured at least three years – and nearly every Single Malt has matured for ten years or more. It always blows my mind what kind of craftmanship it takes to create a spirit that will mature for at least a decade. What a journey the work of a distiller takes until there’s a product to enjoy.

In technology, a decade means half an eternity. The things I create, the tools I use,… both may not work anymore ten years from now. Because it’s always in a state of flux, leaving behind the parts of technology that reveal themself to be a burden instead of a revelation.

The German Psychatrist Sigmund Freud described the human being as a Prothesengott, which translates to a god by means of prostheses. It means that technology is empowerment, and mankind excells in extending it’s possibilies through it. But like every prothesis, it always shows: it stings, it tickles – it keeps the wearer aware of its presence.

This sounds sort of… unpleasant. But I see the core value and goal of my discipline reflected in it: modern digital technology is still in its beginnings. We make tools to empower people around us and enrich their lives with it. But the tools are merely protheses – for now. It’s up to us to mature technology through our work, so it’s a pleasure to use and a frictionless part of everyday life. Until technology is a delight in every possible way – like a fine whisky.

I wrote this post over a year ago as a submission for the fantastic Offscreen Magazine by Kai Brach. However, it didn’t make it, so I’m posting it here.

Photo: University Hall Amsterdam

4 Kommentare

  1. I dare to object! Technology itself changes nothing. Only when Technology meets a need within society, things change.

    But regarding the main Point of your article: So true, and we already have come a long way. I use computers for 30 years now, but only two years ago, the technology was easy enough that my mom could use them on a daily basis.

  2. I’m not sure if technological progress feeds of a real need in society. More often than not advanced technology (which is indistinguishable from magic) lulls people through sheer fascination into a symbiotic relationship, and sooner or later society is used to the presence technology.

    But nonetheless, I suppose the constant flux is in part due to exactly this symbiotic relationship: as society changes its use of and approach to technology, technology adapts, and so the cycle continues.

  3. Ah! Yeah! You’re right and I should have put that more precisely: With „need“ I don’t mean something, like in „I need water“ or „I need Aspirin“, but more „You sooo need to be on facebook“.

    „Desire“, „wish“ or even „dream“ would have been the better word. Especially in a hypercapitalistic Society. None of that must have something to do with realy need.

    Or to put in the words of one of my Philosophy Professore: „The people don’t really want their dreams to come true.“ :)

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