October 20, 2016

Technology Changes Us, Changes Society, and Changes Governments

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Ainissa Ramirez
The greatest cultural shifts come from new technologies, said Dr. Ainissa Ramirez in her LinuxCon North America keynote.

We shape our technology. Our technology shapes us. It's not a one-way trip, but a continual feedback loop. Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, in her inspirational LinuxCon North America keynote, claims that the greatest cultural shifts come from new technologies.

Dr. Ramirez says, "Technology is a faster mover than legislation. If you want to change the culture, if you want to steer how people behave, legislation can certainly do that. But if you really want to do that quickly, just do that with code."

"If you don't think so, think of all the people who four weeks ago had a different life before Pokemon GO. They're completely addicted. That all happened with lines and lines of code. That's the impact that technology has, and since technology has this impact, it's very important for us to look at the stance that we have between technology and humans."

Unpredictable Outcomes

The effects of new technologies are unpredictable. We don't know where they will take us. Putting face masks on football helmets led to the large problem of concussions and brain damage. The telegraph was the pebble in the water that created multiple ripples of change. It was the precursor of the Internet. It shrank the planet. It changed language. Sending a telegraph was so expensive that "You couldn't expound on the weather and all these other things that you would usually do in a letter. You had to have a very terse, sparse style."

"Now, if you look at books written before the telegraph, A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Letter, you'll see that these poets, these writers will write with exquisite details in very long, elaborate sentences. If you look at books written after the telegraph, they have a terse, sparse style. In fact, a quintessential example is Hemingway. Hemingway was directly impacted by the telegraph because he worked in a newsroom where they had telegraphs, and this is where he developed that style, and he went on to inspire all of us."

Dr. Ramirez describes a number of technologies that have made giant changes in us, changed societies, and changed entire governments: cell phones, the Google Brain, the printing press, Twitter, Facebook..."Now, you may be saying, "Look, I'm just a code diva or a code dude. I don't do that. Technology doesn't do that...we need you more than ever. You already have the right mindset for how to look at technology. You share it. You're open. You're inclusive. You know that many, many minds make things better than one mind. Since we already know that technology is going to be the thing that's writing democracy, you serve as democracy's heroes, but I have to remind you that with this great power comes a great responsibility."

Don't miss the presentations by leading open source technologists from Cloudera, Hortonworks, Uber, Red Hat, and more at Apache: Big Data and ApacheCon Europe on November 14-18 in Seville, Spain. Register Now >>

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