Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why technology matters

I'm often criticized for being a tech-head. I spend my days - and often my nights - with my face practically buried in my computer monitor trying to figure out yet another obscure aspect of the technological world in which we live.

I do it for a number of reasons. Most notably, it's my job. By day, I write about the technology field, covering the sector for a leading research firm. It is immensely challenging and rewarding work that allows me to work with - and learn from - some of the brightest people I've had a chance to meet.

Beyond that, I enjoy it immensely. I loved doing puzzles as a kid, and this work represents an updated version of piecing together an incredibly complex picture so that others may see it and understand its meaning. I relish those so-called Eureka Moments, when something that previously didn’t work suddenly clicks into place in my brain.

Yet, folks who call me a geek often feel that technology can be trivial. Over the years, I’ve heard too many variations of “what’s your real job?” It gets annoying after a while, because technology really does matter.

Which brings me to an article, Ambulances not called to save boy, that I read at work today that completely drove home that very point. While editing a piece that I had written earlier this week on the need for the technologies used by emergency services – police. fire, ambulance – to more effectively interoperate with one another, a colleague said he had seen a story (this one) about how a deleted message resulted in an ambulance not being ready and waiting after firefighters pulled a nine-year-old boy from his burning house.

The child died. We’ll never know whether that process breakdown resulted in his death, but I can guarantee you the question will hang over his family forever.

As I did the additional research and worked the components of this story into my already-written article, I had trouble seeing through the tears. I couldn’t stop thinking about our son, who’s nine years-old as well.

God forbid our house ever burns down – it is, after all, my absolute worst fear. But if we ever find ourselves in that situation, I’d like to think that stupid errors in process wouldn’t keep the ambulance from getting there until it’s too late.

Breakdowns in process or technology just can’t happen when it’s your kid who needs saving.

That’s why technology matters. And that’s why it matters to me.


carmilevy said...

Same here. In more ways than one. I often try to imagine what life was like before we could simply look stuff up on the Web, or [insert your own post/pre-tech-availability example here].

I feel privileged to have been around when the Internet became part of the social fabric of society. It's one of those fundamental changes that shifts society from that point forward.

Amelia said...

I think many of us don't even realise just how much technology is involved in our lives. We don't really think about it until it affects us adversely.

Sometime ago in Perth, we had a major power cut. This caused the failure of traffic lights all over the city. Sadly, at one intersection a mother was taking her daughter to school and had to cross one of these sets of lights. A truck hit her car and killed her and seriously injured her daughter(I don't know why the truck didn't slow down at the lights) - another tragic example of how important technology is in our day to day lives.