Does technology lead change?

I was asked in an interview today if I thought that technology, namely social technology, could bring about change. I was tempted to quote the old psychiatrist joke about people having to want to change but resisted. I do think though that whether it is the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, or your staff talking about your business with other staff online, the technology is not causing people to change their attitudes but it sure is speeding the process up.

I believe what we are seeing is the morphing from the industrial, corporate mindset to something new and potentially very different. We happen to have the Internet as a platform on which to conduct our conversations about these changes. It enables more people to learn faster from each other, to work out what is happening, and to gain support and strength from each other as they muster the energy and courage to fundamentally change how they see the world.

9 thoughts on “Does technology lead change?

  1. It's staggering how savvy my daughter's generation is about how the world works. (She's in her early twenties.) I'm sure that's due in part to the internet as a conversation medium. Hopefully its grass roots strength will continue to counter corporate propaganda.Something else that that generation possesses is the ability to avoid commitment to a plan until the last possible moment. Nobody seems to know who's going to be where or when, or who's doing what. But it all comes together with the help of social tools and something happens somewhere. I admire that agility and the sanguine knowledge that it is ok not to have a fixed plan. Hmmm, would they like to run the Edinburgh tram project?


  2. Great links John. I have often said that if you had got a bunch of geeks together with a bunch of doctors, knocked up something workable, played with it, mod'd it, showed it to more people, copied it … May not be perfect but imagine how much further they would have got and for so much less money.


  3. Interesting question. I blogged about this topic some time ago as well. I think technology can lead change, but doesn't always. In the past IT projects were often stalled by waiting for a clear business need or business case. Technology was not in the lead. Or, technology was very much in the lead without even thinking of business needs. In the social media space I think we have nice circle. Setting up social tools, explaining how they work, can get people thinking and relating them to business needs. This then leads to new questions about technology, etc.But surely, as said in the comments, lots of technology did not lead to change.


  4. Sounds like technology acts like a chemical catalyst. My recollection of the definition of a chemical catalyst is that it speeds up the process of a chemical change, but is itself left unchanged by that chemical change. Is "technology" left unchanged by the social changes it speeds up?


  5. Interesting question indeed. I think democracy, or at least the ability to hold some form of public dialogue, creates the desire, ideas and organisations for change. Technology then provides the means to enact it.


  6. Had an interesting conversation along these lines with Jonathan Phillips and Phil Hall recently: the actual technology is becoming less important than how you connect with it. William Gibson is going there in his last few books.


  7. Technology brings by definition change. Enjoy 2001 a space odyssey where a skeleton bone thrown in the air shift-shapes as a space ship šŸ™‚ summing up 5000 years of technology use and human development. Whether it is piecemeal or not is another question. Whether it is for better or worse is a second one. Before Internet crowd control was a matter of force; now the time shaping the idea into reality is shortening and information control (old technology media) is an oxymoron. Money is no longer money but information. People have a life time value which can be projected at birth. Oh and BTW,there is nothing 'social' about technology. One CAN be social with technology; e.g. play ping pong for real or via the net šŸ™‚


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