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Posts Tagged ‘pessimists

The Pessimists Archive podcasts are few and far between. But when they are released, they are a joy to listen to.

The latest one focused on faces. As in the unwarranted fears of how technologies might affect your visage, e.g., smartphone face, tech neck.

The narrator revisited history to uncover what bicycle face and radio face had in common: The use of those then new technologies supposedly caused people’s faces to get wrinkled or stuck in unpleasant ways.

When the rotary telephone gained popularity, it was phone face that caused worry. But phone face was not about the neck crick or longer jowls caused by cradling the phone. It was about not knowing exactly who was calling.

All this was not just about fear-mongering incumbents putting down their competition. In the case of wrinkly faces, cosmetic companies claimed to have remedies for the affected faces.

Whatever the reason for the putdowns, generating fear of the new was the goal. The narrator had a response at around the 34-minute mark of the podcast:

New, uncontrollable things don’t wholesale replace old, controllable things. Instead new technologies integrate into an existing and ever-growing ecosystem. They create more options and therefore even more control.

Technology laggards need to be made aware of this. Technology evangelists could focus on such a message instead. Even if the laggards do not adopt the newer technologies, they might step out of the way for others to try. We all need to face our fears by replacing unquestioned ignorance with critically negotiated knowledge.

I just started following Pessimists Archive on Twitter and listening to its podcasts. Both focus on the common but irrational fear of all things new.

The Twitter feed describes itself as sharing “reactions to old things when they were new”. Consider how this reaction in 1889 is still relevant in 2019.

It is 130 years later and people are saying the same about mobile phones.

Each podcast is about 30 to 40 minutes long and is released only every one or two months. I have listed to a few episodes and I can see why they are infrequent. They lead the listener with engaging storytelling and well-researched historical bites.

I liked two audio snippets in the episode about comic books. In describing how people lament about new technologies, the narrator said that you cannot herd cats but you can move their food. This described the human condition of gravitating to comfort (the nostalgic past) and collectively opposing change (the new present or uncertain future).

But when trying to bring change, we often impose it. For example, in the episode about comic books adults declared that they took action because they were thinking of the children. But they did not ask the kids what they felt and thought.

The furore over comic books has gone and the fuss now seems like wasted effort. The worry now is with computing technologies and video games, and we might be making the same mistakes. It is easy to say we speak for a group, but have be asked and listened to them first?


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