The Future of Technology

I recently watched the latest Star Wars movie and while the plot was well known to me, I was very happy that the threads in the movie did a fair job of connecting the movie to the original three episodes. I have observed that the technology displayed in the movies is also interesting in that it does two very interesting and different things. The first is something that should be in everyone’s requirements documents during any IT project, or for that matter any software or technology project.

First in the movies there is a common use of technology, very high tech, but not intrusive in that the technology is what used to be called ‘Appropriate Technology’. Often this has been used in third world countries to describe technology that fits the situation. As in use of solar electronic devices in an area where distributed power is not common, or skipping the ‘Industrial Age’ in favor of the Digital Age. In any case the technology is enough to help, but not enough to intrude. Making the technology a comfortable chair rather than a large lounger/vibrator/bar/desk object that takes up half a room. This could explain the iPod fad, it’s not intrusive, and does only what it was designed to do. The technology should just work for you, you shouldn’t have to work at the technology. This could apply to most things, Operating Systems, entertainment systems, IT information systems. Always available, doing just as needed, and not intrusive.

The other point gleaned from the movies is related but different and that is culture, the technology reflected the various cultural differences, but still provided similar benefits. The spaceships reflected the culture of the planet that operated them. In Ireland, and Europe in general, that is reflected today in automobiles. The cars here are smaller, shaped differently and in some cases are dead ugly functional. Even the heavy equipment here has identifiable differences to those in the U.S. Some of this is due to the environment in which they operate, smaller streets, more expensive fuel, ect. Even McDonalds has adapted their menus here. The one size fits all is not, and should not be a requirement of the technology. It should recognize that there are different cultural and environmental elements to accommodate in the development of technology. I cannot count the number of E-Commerce systems that attempt to sell in Ireland and require an area code or a street number. Here a house address could be a proper name, associated with a village or an estate name, no zip code and no street address. The mapping sites operating on the Internet are going to go crazy here, where the only real way to find some houses are GPS coordinates and the help of the local postman.

Anyway, the point is this, development of technology is as much an element of culture and lifestyle as any other object in use today, and should be incorporated into any requirements analysis for future development. The shape of a computer case, the color of a keyboard, the data entry screen, the controls on an MP3 player must all be taken into consideration. Apple more or less knew this with the creation of colored iMacs and iPods. And the PC industry has often copied this with no real understanding as to why one should do this. This is why! Discrete useful, culturally integrated technology is the goal.