Saturday 5 January 2008

Adopting new technology: Sometimes better, but not always smarter

Another book I'm reading right now (or rather, in this case, idly flicking through) is The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance shaped Australia's History by Geoffrey Blainey that has a great little technology adoption anecdote concerning the motor car in the early 1900s:

"Salesmen had to teach their customers how to start a car and how to steer before they had a chance of selling a car. Elderly farmers in particular were slow learners. They were accustomed to driving ploughs, which they always steered by pushing the lever in the opposite direction to that in which the plough was intended to go; they were slow to forget that knowledge. Driving their first car they would sometimes come to a bend in a road and instinctively turn the steering wheel in the wrong direction, thus running off the road. They were also so accustomed to driving or riding horses that they did not concentrate enough on steering. They knew a horse was never silly enough to run into a tree. They expected a Detroit car to be as sensible."

This speaks to me on so many levels about our experiences with the adoption of information technology, particularly how people's past experiences shape their expectations and how shifting from one technology to another doesn't always mean that everything will be the same or better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.