The Fruits of Civilization – Technology Synopsis

Technology Synopsis

▫ Science afforded engineering, which begat technology: the artifacts of problem-solving minds.

▫ Technological advance has had profound societal consequences.

“The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.” ~ Karl Marx

▫ Technology effects externalities: consequences beyond intended purposes. For example, transportation vehicles weave the human world together while tearing the natural world apart.


“To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.” ~ American biologist Paul Ehrlich

▫ Software is entirely a mental construct. A software program’s quality reflects the acuity of its developers.

Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid, with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves. ~ Alan Kay

▫ Difficulties in maintaining programs drove the evolution of software languages, the designs of which have often been maladroit.

▫ The employment of ersatz languages, such as C++, begat software systems which are slow, glitchy, and difficult to use because they are difficult for their developers to maintain.

“The most amazing achievement of the computer software industry is its continuing cancellation of the steady and staggering gains made by the computer hardware industry.” ~ American engineer Henry Petroski

▫ The World Wide Web illustrates a stunning lack of vision in software design. Web pioneers failed to recognize the basic need for a flexible page-description language. Further, scant thought was given to security, so web pages evolved to be masses of scripts, with surreptitious surveillance and malware commonplace.

“There are only 2 industries that refer to their customers as ‘users’.” ~ American statistician Edward Tufte