Ali’s Mental Meanderings

wandering, not lost

Technology and Blame

I’m presently listening to Cory Doctorow podcast Bruce Sterling’s The Hacker Crackdown. The link is to Part 1, there are 15 parts in the podcast to date. I am a little behind and was listening to Part 4 this morning.

In brief the book section was describing how technology, specifically computers, can in many ways do tasks more quickly than humans could ever hope to. Humans have in this case handed over control of communications networks to ‘senseless but powerful machines’. However when things go awry, or break, humans instinctively look for somebody to be responsible and subsequently to blame. They are unable to accept that when something has gone wrong, it may be the fault of a computer glitch and thus no human is actually to blame. What then happens when a frustrated and inconvenienced person is unable to be angry at another person?

They look for somebody to blame. Typically this takes the form of hackers or some other evil person, instead of the more likely scenario…. a glitch in software. In the example described by Sterling, the error was due to a single mistyped character in the software.

This had me thinking about the number of times I’ve seen frustrated people attack an innocent party when software hasn’t fulfilled a persons expectations, though it may be functioning perfectly. Let alone when systems do in fact come crashing down which happens from time to time and is often the fault of nobody in particular. In this emerging era of technology integration with society humans need to learn how to deal with frustration without automatically seeking another human to blame. In my experience there are precious few with this skill, though I believe it coincides with the ability to see past short-term frustration and seek a workable solution to a problem.


October 19, 2007 Posted by | blame, Bruce Sterling, Cory Doctorow, technology frustration, The Hacker Crackdown | Leave a comment

Giving books away

I’ve recently downloaded some books from Cory Doctorow. He’s a Canadian science-fiction writer who releases all of his books under a Creative Commons licence. This means you can go to his site, download his books, and read them/copy them/give them to everybody you know without coming under fire from lawyers or anybody else; as long as you don’t make a profit from your actions.

Cory has done a number of things, most notably he’s a co-editor of BoingBoing. While not as likely to take to the streets, I do agree with some of his ideas about freedom of information and the problem with licensing which tends to punish only those trying to use products legitimately.

His writing is also very good. I urge you to check out his website and the various novels and novellas he’s authored.

April 13, 2006 Posted by | Cory Doctorow, creative commons | Leave a comment