The Secret Technology That Nobody Notices

Technology

A question on Reddit recently caught my attention: what is something that seemed sci-fish but is now mundane, and even boring? There were a whole range of responses. From mobile phones, to the internet, to flat screens, to multiplayer online games, and a whole heap of other technologies.

However, for me there is something even more profound. Yes, it involves technology, but it also only happens thanks to the work of an awful lot of work from a bunch of people, many of whom provide their services for free. It’s something that has changed my life and touched the lives of everyone I know, almost every single day. And it’s so innocuous, not a single person mentioned it in the Reddit thread.

Trivial Pursuit

Suppose you wanted to know the name of the actress of who played Axel Foley’s daughter in the new Beverly Hills Cop movie (we just watched it last night. That’s why it’s fresh in my mind). What would you do?

You might remember her name (Taylour Paige, for those playing at home) from the credits (but who watches them anymore?), but you’re more likely to just google it, or go straight to the Wikipedia or the IMDB pages for the movie. Now say for a moment you’re not a creep, and what you really wanted to find out was Taylour Paige’s husband’s ‘real’ name (Gary Angulo btw). It’s at most one additional click away.

It’s at most one additional click away.

Where do you think that information comes from? Some of it might come from Netflix, or their agent, but the bulk of it comes from the public, most of whom are not paid.

Technology in the Past

Popcorn

Now imagine trying to find out that information in the 80s. It’s much harder, especially given that Taylour wasn’t even born yet. Instead, imagine trying to find out who played Mikey Tandino from the original Beverly Hills Cop movie (James Russo, in case you were wondering). If you don’t remember, he plays a short (but pivotal) role in the opening fifteen minutes.

How would you do it? First, you’d have to sit through the closing credits at the cinema. What if you missed the name? Would you watch it again? That’s a lot of popcorn. You might be able to track down the trade papers and find it there, or find it somewhere on the poster, or in one of the many entertainment magazines. All of which would cost money – not much but enough to be annoying- and with no guarantee for finding out his name.

What if what you really wanted to find out (because you’re writing questions of a really hard trivia night quiz) was where he went to university (NYU, btw). It’d be practically impossible to find out the information, short of writing to the man and asking him. And that would be the same not just for the 80s, but also for the 90s right up to 2006, when the information was added to his Wikipedia article. It’s not just movie trivia, either.

Technology Now

Want to refresh your secondary education? Or perhaps you’ve got a kid that struggling with a subject. Then check out the Khan Academy. I used it recently to update some of my maths knowledge (just to confirm that one times one does not equal two – as the Terryologists believe).

What if you’re bored? You can spend hours watching a bunch of online videos on YouTube or PeerTube or Pornhub or any number of other sites.

It’s become so common-place that most people don’t even consider how radical that concept is

How about if you’re lost, then you use a mapping program. If you’re a coder and run into a problem, then you can check out Stack Exchange* or Reddit* or a bunch of other sites. Need to catch the latest news? It’s all accessible online. And nearly everything I’ve mentioned above is available for free.

With cold hard cash to spend, there are even broader options. For instance, you can legally watch almost every movie or TV series ever made (except Song of the South – we don’t talk about that one). And it might kill cinema as we know it.

The easy access to information through a range of technologies has changed our world. And it’s become so common-place that most people don’t even consider how radical that concept is.

Just as a postscript to this article, I found one of the comments from the original Reddit thread amusing:

If you told my younger self that I now have an android in my pocket that could go into airplane mode, I would’ve gotten really excited for the future.

/u/NardpuncherJunior

Indeed!

* Yes, I know AI and greed has curtailed their usefulness.

skribe

I’m skribe. I’m a writer, a film-maker and an actor. While I’m originally from Perth, Australia, I currently reside on a tropical island, the Lion City of Singapore. Fingerprint: 79A1 DC6C D367 8A31 135A 7AFA 940E 4231 D7B9 B15C If you like what you see buy me a coffee.

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