Food for Thought: Can Old and New Technologies Co-exist?

July 30, 2019 by Stefanini

In the digital transformation, we’re constantly hearing about what’s to come in the next five, 10 to 20 years. Talks of flying cars and robots taking over the world can overwhelm us to the point where the term “digital transformation” becomes nauseating. But here’s the reality: change is on the horizon and we must brace ourselves.

Even 20 years ago, the idea of having a virtual assistant play our favorite song, or pull up our favorite recipe was unheard of. And while it still may seem absurd to some in 2019, it will become the norm in a few years.

Technological evolution is part of life. VHS to DVD, radio to streaming services, chalkboards to smartboards – you name it. We’ve seen some of the most nostalgic technologies of our lifetimes gradually come and go, and some of those technologies are still functional, so why get rid of it? This is something to think about as we’re entering a new decade in less than six months. What technologies that we use today will fade away, and what will stick around and co-exist with modern-day technologies?

In a Gizmodo article, Corinna Schlombs, assistant history professor at Rochester Institute of Technology uses information and communication technologies as an example: “The telegraph did not replace the postal system, and both had their different uses. Thus, newspapers used the telegraph to convey time-sensitive information, such as an election result, and the significantly cheaper mail for less time-sensitive material, such as a political commentary.”

As mentioned earlier, there are a plethora of nostalgic technologies that we still hold onto because, well, why not? Peter Norton, associate professor of science, technology and society at the University of Virginia raises a great point: “The technologies that seem to be the most outclassed may come back as the cult objects of aficionados—the vinyl record, for example.”

David Edgerton, history professor of science, technology and modern British history at King’s College London, has an interesting philosophy on how we view old and new things:  “We might start with the argument that far from always replacing older types of things, new things often add to the old. We just have more of everything. We might also note that what we deem “old” things often change: they are both old and new. Similarly, lots of things we think of as new often contain very old elements.”

The bottom line is this – as we embrace the technological change that is destined to come our way, we don’t have to neglect past technologies. The new can exist with the old, and the more receptive we are to this, the more we can appreciate this upcoming technological era.  

Let's co-create solutions towards technological evolution.