Washing Machine Bigger Impact than Internet, says Professor Chang

Technology shapes society, at least this is what tech pundits will lead you to believe. But which technologies? Financial Times interviews Ha-Joon Chang, economy professor at Cambridge, who claims household technologies like the washing machine and piped gas has done much more or society that the internet. They allow women to join the labour market, argues Chang, have fewer children and later. This upset the previous power balance and resulted in universal suffrage, among other things. Netopia says great, but still techno-centric. Reminds me of a talk by another UK professor (at Oxford, as fate would have it!): Netopia-favourite Viktor Mayer-Schönberger. He may be most familiar for his recent book Big Data, but his previous work Delete looked into the right to be forgotten, the importance of teaching machines to forget. I attended a seminar where he introduced his thinking that Guttenberg may have invented the printing press, but it was the content that made it popular. “What content?” you ask. The Bible, says Mayer-Schönberger, pointing to Martin Luther as the one who real made the print book popular. Is it technology that drives society? Or can technology function as a vehicle for what the people want, whether it be access to scripture or women’s lib?

Financial Times story: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/27a2027e-5698-11e3-8cca-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2mFzFTc9v