Day 30— More cellphones that toilets

Photo by Spencer on Unsplash

E-Books, wines, and frogs

E-books haven’t yet supplanted the physical book in the United States and other developed countries. So what’s behind the extraordinary resilience of this format made possible by Johannes Gutenberg’s five-hundred-year-old innovation?’One might suspect that the use of e-books hasn’t supplanted physical books because millennials don’t read books anymore. Another possibility is that book publishers are prisoners of “structural inertia,” which discourages individuals, organizations, and communities from staging a smooth transition from one way of doing things to another that offers better performance. Yet another possibility has to do with the printed ook’s unique format, one that is perfect for gifts and as home decor. The technology commentator and best-selling author Edward Tenner argues that there are several reasons people are sometimes reluctant to abandon an old technology in favor of a new one. The first involves the potential vulnerabilities of the new thing. For instance, the fax machine is now a museum piece, but for a while, people continued to prefer it over emailing scanned documents out of security concerns. Another potential reason involves aesthetics and nostalgia.

Which technologies are worth developing and reinventing?

Waterless toilets and e-books for those who lack access to conventional things would be at the top of my personal list. VR-based therapies to help people overcome chronic psychological or cognitive conditions should also receive priority. Nanotechnologies promise to liberate us from some of the materials most inimical to the environment, and 3-D printing may help us be less wasteful. But each of these technologies can be immiserating if jobs are destroyed, if they reduce our privacy, or if they encourage the proliferation of fake news. also, flywheel technology is finding new applications in the era of scarce energy and heightened environmental awareness, reinventing the wheel in response to new trends.

2030 by Mauro.F.Guillen: 173–177

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