Midnight Pub

trickle-down tech

~tetris

Technology as a Commodity

Whenever someone uses the term "trickle-down" in a performative (usually economic) sense it invokes a feeling of warm apathy, like a high profile politician promising the passive benefits of his high nutrient diet as he smiles and pisses against your leg.

That being said, there is one instance of trickle-down theory where I do believe that the benefits are actually passed on from the top to the bottom - and that's: technology.

I don't see technology as something that can really be hoarded or deprived from others¹.

For example, if someone invents an expensive way to desalinate water, then yes, only the rich will be able to afford it. But progress waits for no one - whether it be from the R&D division of a Tech Firm, or fresh out of Academia², or just some rando working in his back yard - someone will find a cheap way to desalinate water, and bring the fire to the people so to speak.

Maintaining Tech Dominance

We live in an age now where Big Tech™ are trying to take control over our lives by weaving adverts and dark tracking patterns into every facet of our digital experience. And though it seems like they are succeeding, there are enough of us who will seek alternatives and write new communication protocols that break free from this trend.

Some of these protocols (and the communities around them) will thrive, and others will fail, but they will ultimately provide an alternative to the status quo that will slowly gather strength as more and more people begin to see the benefits of the alternative. The transition won't be as quick as we want it to be, but it will happen.

It's my belief that not one single entity can have a hegemony over tech for very long, and given the rapid pace at which tech is developed/released, those periods of dominance get ever smaller and smaller. Big Brother only wins if no one ever innovates, and that is in my opinion virtually impossible to guarantee.

To paraphrase a quote from Nancy Kress's *Beggars In Spain* trilogy:

"It's not about who should control technology. It's about who can."

Footnotes

1: at least not for long, although the means for producing the tech (e.g. a killer robot) can be.

2: where arguably private industry get a lot of their most highly vetted ideas and their freely trained labor from.


rex

One of the best examples of trickle down tech is GPS which was created by the US military. No doubt this has been a huge boon for most people, it has quite literally transformed the world in countless ways. It even spawned a new hobby - Geocaching. Imagine if we still had to use mapquest...that would be terrible.

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tetris

Good example. Plus we can use it to track the movement of wildlife over vast distances and better see our impact upon them.

Plus we now know that birds don't turn into mice every summer:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pfeilstorch
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nsilvestri

I've used the phrase trickle-down tech in a comment here last month. I completely agree with your points. In the face of political uncertainty and democratic subversion of which I am individually incapable of affecting for the better, I feel like the next best thing I can do is to help the world develop technologically in such a way that there's no alternative but to raise the floor for standards of living.

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tetris

I'm of the opinion that most of my ideas come to me from passive reading of other people's ideas that I hadn't fully absorbed in the moment, so I'm almost certain that your post triggered mine.

As for raising standards of living, I genuinely think that the biggest game changer will be 3D printing. The Pandora's box of Pandora's box. Why build a house from scratch when you can copy your neighbour's prototype and modify it slightly to your needs and let it print. I don't know when it's going to happen. My gut says probably not in the next 20 years.

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inquiry

Not exactly on topic, but someday I hope to remember tech that didn't seem like more work/frustration than it was worth.

Said another way, my leg's gotten nasty wet on tech promises more than once on this trip....

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tetris

I used to dream of electric cars and virtual reality. Who knew the horrors that would unleash. Now I dream of cheap housing and plentiful water.

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inquiry

I wasn't thinking about horrors so much as inconveniences that, added together, obviate heralded benefits - for those with eyes to see, i.e. willingness to endure the judgement of tech fundamentalists....

For example, we have a Kia Soul. Wonderful vehicle in so many ways. But the amount of inconvenience we've suffered of it's wanting to lock itself at the most Murphy-riffic times boggles my mind - as in I've lost count of the number of times I've muttered something along the lines of "And I actually *paid* to endure this insanity?"

Similar experiences with computers and phones, e.g. having to dig through settings menus and/or add apps just to keep the fucking screen on until *I* turn the fucker off.

But, then, I'm also rather down on the notion of "help", because I swear it has generally led to my having more work to do than had I just done things myself.

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tetris

Those are good examples, and tech should definitely be treated more as a tool to achieve some task, and not as this sentient/opinionated device that refuses to work in the way you want unless you tickle it the right way.

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inquiry

Gee.. when you put at that way, it's almost like ruminating on the theme of have a second SO.... >_<

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tetris

I'd tickle a device internally

And IIII seeeee

Nooooothing

Wronnng

Wiiiith that

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inquiry

The phrase "tickle down techonomics" comes to mind. :-)

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nsilvestri

What is your concern with electric cars? I'm biased (my day job is with EVs and grid infrastructure) but I see electric cars as a substantial net positive.

Sidenote: as a VR enthusiast, I have no questions about your VR concerns.

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tetris

To be honest, the electric cars comments wasn't a well thought out one. I guess I have some hazy grievances related to "smart" cars that can lock users out of their own vehicle or perform updates without consent. Plus the whole cult of personality that some of the "innovators" in the field have.

On the otherside of it though, I am very interested in the backup battery capabilities of EVs. I was looking at my electricity usage the other day and I use about 2-4 kWh per day (that's a really weird unit of electricity I might add...), which is well within what is being advertized on the market right now.

It's my dream to just load up on some solar panels, a decent battery pack, and live off the Sun. My SO thinks I'm silly, pointing out rightfully that buying said panels and packs will add up to a sum that far outweighs the cost of the electricity I use now for many years to come. But, as I tell her each and every time; *the money's not the point!*

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