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Designing for Emerging Technologies by Jonathan Follett

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Chapter 20. The Changing Role of Design

DIRK KNEMEYER

On the Impact of Emerging Technologies

At every point in human history, there are Emerging Technologies. However, it is only at certain, critical moments that the confluence of emerging technologies dramatically alters the ways in which we live and the environments in which we live. We are in the midst of one such moment. To better understand it, we should understand other important markers of world-changing impact caused by emerging technology.

The printing press was a singular technology that permanently changed us from a species of near-ignorance to one that today has remarkably high levels of learning, education, and understanding. More than just being smarter, we were able to pursue higher-quality and more civilized lives in an increasingly universal way that previously was the domain of a privileged few. It is, in my opinion, the most important single technology that can be attributed to a specific time and person. This one machine took us from a species of relative ignorance and shocking inequality to one of knowledge, insight, and understanding.

The emerging technologies of today, a burst of advances crossing many fields without one being particularly dominant, is very different from the printing press. This dynamic shares more in common with the Industrial Revolution. Building from the enlightenment of the Scientific Revolution—just as we now are building from the enabling technology that is the Internet—dozens of technologies ...

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