New York Times journalist Nick Bilton talks about technology hypochondria in his book ‘I Live in the Future and Here’s How It Works’. He reminds us that the steam train, travelling at speeds greater than 20 miles per hour was thought to cause people’s bones to fall apart. Others speculated that people travelling at this speed would suffocate. Of the phonograph people worried that “bookmaking and reading will fall into disuse” and that the phonograph would mean that the child of the future would “never have to learn his [or her] letters”.
This is technology hypochondria.
Author Kevin Kelly tells us, “Imagine how bereft we would be if the technology of film had not been invented in time for Hitchcock”. (And if you want some fascinating insights into Kelly’s other takes on technology, check out his website.) Here, he talks about the idea of the gifts of technology:
Technology hypochondria prevents us from seeing the possibilities of technology. How it can enhance our lives, how it can stretch our experiences. What would Shakespeare have done with his time if he didn’t have a quill?
Futurist and epiphany addict Jason Silva says “to understand is to perceive patterns”. What could be truer than this? History shows us that we fear the unknown until it becomes familiar, until we understand how it works. Technology is the greatest challenge to our fear of the unknown because it is evolution at hyper-speed. Even the creators can barely keep up with the pace of change, let alone the users at the end of the line.
At the moment there is enormous change in the book selling and story world. All the cards have been thrown up in the air and we are watching, some feel helplessly, as they fall to the ground. But if we watch for patterns as those cards fall, or better yet, if we grab them as the fall and create our own version of the future we want, there is nothing to fear.