That smartphones allow us to imprison twice the number of people at half the cost is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that only management consultants and tech entrepreneurs would be excited about. Such breakthroughs would be worth celebrating if they didn’t distract us from the more radical (and simpler) solution to the problem of overcrowded prisons: incarcerating fewer people.
Smart technologies are not just disruptive; they can also preserve the status quo. Revolutionary in theory, they are often reactionary in practice.
Smart technology, thanks to its ubiquity and affordability, offers us the cheapest — and trendiest — fix. But the gleaming aura of disruption-talk that often accompanies such fixes masks their underlying conservatism. Technological innovation does not guarantee political innovation; at times, it might even impede it. The task ahead is to prevent our imagination from being incarcerated by smart technologies. Or should we settle for gamifying ourselves to death?
Evgeny Morozov, “Imprisoned by Innovation”
I admit it: I’m really curious to see how NFC technologies are adopted by various vendors and developers. To date, however, the integration has been poor and what adoption there has been tends to focus on payment solutions. Payment solutions scare the crap out of me because they increase the reasons attackers have to compromise my phone: it’s bad enough they want my personal information; I don’t want them after my digital wallet as well!
RIM has a neat bit of technology they’ve recently released, which leverages the NFC functionality in their new phones with Bluetooth pairing systems. Specifically, it enables rapid syncing between phones and audio-output devices (i.e., speakers). While the product is pretty “meh” as released today, it could be pretty exciting were vehicle manufacturers and speaker manufacturers to generally integrate NFC-pairing capabilities with their respective products. It’s presently a pain to listen to music stored on a mobile through vehicle speakers (using Bluetooth) or a friend’s speakers in their home. RIM has offered a partial solution to the Bluetooth pairing problem; now it’s up to the larger ecosystems to actually integrate RIM’s idea in a omnipresent and highly functional way.
… there is never a single, ideal type towards which any given technology will inevitably evolve. Specific technologies are developed to solve specific problems, for specific users, in specific times and places. How certain problems get defined as being more in need of a solution, which users are considered more important to design for, what other technological systems need to be provided or accounted for, who has the power to set certain technical and economic priorities—these are fundamentally social considerations that deeply influence the process of technological development.
Nathan Ensmenger; The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise