Making technology meaningful
Just because you can make something doesn’t mean you should.
Within the road cycling community, there’s arguably some snobbery and mild disdain for the electric bike, or, “electrically assisted pedal cycle” (or EAPC, or ebike, or Pedelec). This attitude has most likely come from the more unsavoury, macho cyclist after being repeatedly, and effortlessly, overtaken on their favourite little 10% incline every Sunday morning.
I can see the argument. It’s happened to me many times. You’re working up a sweat, your legs are screaming for mercy and, from out of nowhere, “good morning!”, as Mr Smug glides passed like a swan. If only you had the air in your lungs to respond it wouldn’t be a cordial “good morning!”.
As technology drags mankind by the scruff of the neck it’s easy to become cynical. It’s easy to toss aside the magnitude of our technological advances and hark back to the golden era where all you needed was two tin cans and a length of string.
Beneath the noise of the next big thing and the rutting notion of just because you can invent something doesn’t mean you should there are real, meaningful advances, and what makes this meaningful what they bring meaning to mankind, animals and our environment.
I met a man an elderly cyclist at a recent cafe stop. I asked about his electric bike, sorry EAPC, and if he’s enjoying it. The answer was a resounding, “yes, I’m loving it”, and what struck me was not what technology was but what it had given him.
He could cycle from Stroud to Berkeley, and back (approx. 30 miles) in less than 2 hours and still have enough energy to mow the lawn, help around the house and spend some time with his wife. A journey that would not only take around 2.5 hours but undoubtedly dispatch most of us to the couch for a serious nap.
It all really hit home when he added, “I used to do so much cycling it means I can still get out with friends, meet new people, like you, and still feel part of it all.”
I think I have something in my eye.
The message is a simple one. To make technology truly meaningful we must not be fixated on the technology itself. Instead, we must fixate on closing chasms that life creates for us; to overcome, empower and connect. We must fixate on outcomes. For outcomes are our legacy.