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Does technology die

27 November 2019

There are two parts to technology. There’s the tangible object, the materials we pull out of the ground and shape to our liking. Then there’s the intangible, the knowledge of how to use the technology and the stories we shape around it. The computer I’m typing on is just a collection of metal and plastic. It’s workings are governed by carefully calibrated programs and systems. I was taught how to use a computer by society. With it I can create and connect with others. That knowledge gets defined and redefined over the years.

When this knowledge changes, tech gets used for something completely different than its original purpose. Our phones are now just supercomputers with a phone app. We do everything on them except call people. Just give a kid a box and watch how many uses they come up with it.

When a technology “dies”, it’s when we collectively decide to stop using it and forget how to use it. The intangible object is still there, but as a strange object than as a valuable tool. Quipus were used by the Inca Empire to record information. They fell out of favor when the Inca Empire fell to the Spanish Empire. Now, we see quipus in museums all over the world. But we have limited understanding how to read them. But even in this case, the technology never truly died. Knowledge of how to use it was in archaic Spanish texts and Inca knowledge. Very few people had access to the knowledge, but it was there. Because of that, we are piecing together and documenting knowledge of how to read them, and uncovering insights. So, maybe it’s better to say that unused tech goes dormant instead of dies.