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February 24, 2005


Scott Adams

One definition that I use in my instructional technology classes is taking what you know, and then using that information to solve a problem.

Kevin Marks

That definition is attributed by Douglas Adams to Bran Ferren. That article is a brilliant and prescient meditation on this theme.
Another problem with the net is that it’s still ‘technology’, and ‘technology’, as the computer scientist Bran Ferren memorably defined it, is ‘stuff that doesn’t work yet.’ We no longer think of chairs as technology, we just think of them as chairs. But there was a time when we hadn’t worked out how many legs chairs should have, how tall they should be, and they would often ‘crash’ when we tried to use them. Before long, computers will be as trivial and plentiful as chairs (and a couple of decades or so after that, as sheets of paper or grains of sand) and we will cease to be aware of the things. In fact I’m sure we will look back on this last decade and wonder how we could ever have mistaken what we were doing with them for ‘productivity.’

Phil Gomes

As to the definition of technology... I'm reminded of an interview I read in the late 1980s with guitarist Allan Holdsworth. He was getting a lot of guff from purists back then about using a "SynthAxe," which was a guitar synthesizer that relied on picking the strings *and* breathing into a tube in order to deliver extended dynamic control.

The interviewer asked an all-too-obvious question about whether he felt all of the "technology" inherently robbed his music of soul or feel.

Holdsworth rightly dismissed the notion as nonsense. In his view, almost *anything* was "technology."

"Even a string stretched across a hole."

Eric Smith

That technology definition seems like a slightly more general and perhaps more cynical version of a traditional definition of Artificial Intelligence: anything that we can't yet get computers to do. Once we can get them to do it, it is no longer considered AI, but rather something mundane.

Scott Adams

I went back and looked at the book I use.

"Technology: The systemic and systematic application of behavior and physical sciences concepts and other knowledge to the solution of problems".

Gentry, C.G. (1991). Educational technology: A question of meaning. In G. Anglin (Ed.),Instructional technology: Past, present and future. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Stuart Berman

Perhaps a shorter definition is 'gizmos'.

Did you catch Tom Barnett at TED? He says that he received a standing ovation.

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