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Labun Jordan: Technological Diversity

10/04/10 5:55PM By Helen Labun Jordan
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(HOST) Commentator Helen Labun Jordan is far from being a techie... but she's noticed that the most recent wave of technical innovations are bridging the gap between the tech savvy and people like her.

(LABUN JORDAN) When I was a kid, I took being a bookworm very seriously. I created whole reading environments, inside forts made of couch cushions, lolling upside down off of armchairs, even suspending myself above our narrow downstairs hallway by pressing my feet to one wall and back to the other. After my family took a trip to Washington, DC, my strongest memory wasn't the Lincoln Memorial; it was filling up a potato sack with books to make sure that I wouldn't run out. It was an article of faith that I would grow up to be a well read adult.

But I didn't.

Instead, I turned out to be a naturally slow reader - each page takes an eternity to finish. When I say Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was my summer reading, I mean all my reading, for all of summer, and I'm still not quite through. Tolstoy is completely off the table.

Now, my failure to read is not a major societal problem, no teams of scientists research this affliction, and yet technological advances have given us what may be my solution: the Kindle.

I'm usually slower to catch a tech trend than I am to get through the Da Vinci Code, but in one light weight gadget with a screen that reads like paper, I have access to writing of any sort, from news highlights to classic novels. I can subscribe to a blog and support writers of succinct installments, just my style. I can read samples before I decide to tackle the whole book. I can choose audio over text. And it's much, much better than the potato sack of books I once sat on for a 10 hour car ride.

The way that I'm using the Kindle is part of an emerging new equation for technology.

Innovation over the last 30 years has been defined by its staggering speed. To fuel this speed, technology coming to market relied on consumers who felt a rush of excitement each time a machine could do something machines could never do before. Even if that something wasn't, objectively, so great. Witness Pong.

Today, the speed of change may be the same, but what matters more is that the number of new tools available is catching up to the number of needs each of us encounters on a given day. That capacity is reversing the way the tech fearful once saw the world. We aren't headed towards a science fiction future of a machine dominated landscape, because we aren't mindlessly following where invention takes us. It's the opposite. Inventions have multiplied in so many directions they can now follow individual demands. We have families staying connected across generations on Skype, naturalists ID-ing birds with the help of a smartphone, grandmothers finding new recipes on their iPads, roving gourmet food carts located by Twitter... the diversity of technical ability is starting to mirror the diversity of human experience.

It is, in short, a whole new post-computer age. And now I look forward to reading about it.
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