Friday, December 07, 2007

Choice Of Technology - A Small Example

Today's New York Times has an article about plans to provide internet service on airplane flights that mentions choice of technology in passing:

While the technology could allow travelers to make phone calls over the Internet, most carriers say they currently have no such plans. Many travelers find the prospect of phone calls much less palatable than having a seatmate quietly browsing e-mail. Onboard phone calls are “one of those ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ types of technologies,” Mr. Harteveldt said. “The last thing you want is to be in a crowded tube at 35,000 feet for two or three hours with some guy going on and on about his trip to Vegas.”

This is a very small example of choice of technology, but it represents an important principle that was generally overlooked during the twentieth century. For example, imagine if we had applied the same sort of reasoning to America's post-war binge of urban freeway construction:

Urban freeways are one of those ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ types of technologies. The last thing you want is to slice up neighborhoods with high speed roads, so people can no longer walk to services and are forced to drive.

For more examples of choice of technology, see


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