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Is It Time to Rethink the Digital Revolution?

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Max The Magnificent
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Sad face
Max The Magnificent   9/24/2013 4:14:05 PM
Hi Tom -- I don't disagree with anything you've said, but it's left me wearing my sad face ... I just hope things end up working out for the best...

rick merritt
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Well said
rick merritt   9/24/2013 4:41:42 PM
I love your phrase "a soulless silicon civilization" and I agree balance means so much.

On the positive side I have to remind myself the amazing capabilities we have with the Web and smartphones. I recall getting our first color TV and watching Star Trek. Such advances!

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moral dilema?
krisi   9/24/2013 5:07:52 PM
I am not sure what is the moral dilema here...we live long, health lives now with pretty darn good comfort...just look back 100 if the dilema is to use digital revolution or not you are free to stop using cell phone, I know many people who just did that

According to wikipedia (if I dropped the digital revolution I would not be able to find this out ;-):

An ethical dilemma is a complex situation that often involves an apparent mental conflict between moral imperatives, in which to obey one would result in transgressing another. This is also called an ethical paradox since in moral philosophy, paradox often plays a central role in ethics debates. Ethical dilemmas are often cited in an attempt to refute an ethical system or moral code, as well as the worldview that encompasses or grows from it

I hardly see that Moore's law or its consequences fit here...Kris

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So elequant!
junko.yoshida   9/24/2013 5:11:09 PM
Tom, you wrote:

And when we're not being sold such products, we are the products being sold to advertisers, and state surveillance agencies.

That's so well put.

As you noted:

Maybe if we stop trying to reshape ourselves in the image and likeness of our technology, and instead redirect the rich portfolio of tools now available to us to more human and humane ends,we'll find ourselves doing real and necessary innovation.

That's an eloquant statement. We aren't the technology. But we own the technology that allows us to do "necessary innovation." It's time to get to work for the purpose of real and necessary innovation!


Tom Mahon
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Author note
Tom Mahon   9/24/2013 5:39:16 PM
I've been writing about technology for 40 years as industry publicist, novelist, essayist and dramatist, most of that time in Silicon Valley. I am keenly aware of the many benefits of the digital revolution.  But I also know that while some cayenne pepper improves the stew, too much cayenne pepper can ruin the stew.  Moderation is an evergreen virtue. 

For myself, I was introduced to the digital revolution at age ten, in 1954, when our Scout Master invited our troop to visit his home workshop.  He had started an electronics company just after World War II, and we were in awe of his garage workbench filled with vacuum tubes of all shapes and sizes.

William Shockley had yet to start his company that would soon replace these vacuum-state devices with solid-state semiconductors, but even then, our scout leader foresaw a golden future.  Boys, he said, by the time you are my age these devices will make it so you never have to work.  Imagine being able to spend all your time fishing, or reading, or listening to music, or doing whatever you want to do.

That fired the imagination of this ten-year old.  And it was reinforced twenty year later when, in 1974, I wrote and directed an industrial film for a computer company; my first gig writing about technology.  The client insisted that my script focus on how his big mainframes were going to make air travel safer, health care more affordable, and education more widely available.

Admittedly, those early episodes set a high benchmark for me that could never be fully realized.  But I'm still struck by Robert Kennedy's observation that while some see things as they are and ask "Why?" the better path may be to imagine what might be, and ask "Why not?"

(I have an eBook on this subject, with information at  Also see Occupy Technology on Facebook at

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Spot on
deron19   9/24/2013 8:49:14 PM
Every single point is right on target.  It's discouraging to see so many brilliant people working on such marginally beneficial things.  We need to redirect resources away from fast and cool to more pressing societal issues.

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prabhakar_deosthali   9/25/2013 8:02:59 AM
In my opinion, there is already a section in our society ( almost in every country) which is thinking out of the box. This section is putting such innovations for some good use by the society at grass roots level.

Such groups are thinking beyond FB likes, twitter tweets or Whats-app messaging. These groups are finding innovative solutions using the same technology for betterment of society

Myself an engineer with 40 years of experience of walking with this digital revolution , I am an active member of such a group which is dedicated to offer solutions to the poor, the needy and the underprivileged in the areas of education, livelihood, environment protection and health, using the available modern technology tools - the smartphones, the tablets, the internet of things,  and all that this digital revolution is offering.

So while those crazy brains in the labs may be burning midnight oil on improving processor speeds, display resolutions , transistor density , battery life and network speeds - These other crazy people are scratching their heads day and night on how to apply these technologies for the betterment of the society.


Caleb Kraft
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the direction of tech
Caleb Kraft   9/25/2013 2:55:15 PM
To me it seems like the biggest problem is that the innovators are focusing on entertainment and comfort. Afterall, that is where the money is! 

I hate to sound this way, but the capitalist drive is what is stifling us moving forward as a society. Everyone is focused on designing what will make money, not change.

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Re: Author note
Garcia-Lasheras   9/25/2013 6:37:36 PM
Albert Einstein stated:

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."

Unfortunately there are most of us, electronics technology professionals, who are more interested in having success than in bringing value to the world :-(

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Rethink Required
mcsruff   9/25/2013 7:19:58 PM
I suggest that you go to North Korea to view the results of the socialist central-planning implied by your article. You may change your point of view & realize that capitalism, though not perfect, has provided us with a very high standard of living.

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