"Man is a creature that can get accustomed to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him."
Most recently – last Thursday day, in fact – I heard the disembodiment trope expressed yet again, in a webcast on the Internet of Things, sponsored by MIT Technology Review. One of the participants was Andrew McAfee, co-director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of Race Against the Machine and The Second Machine Age. One of the principal consequences of the IoT, McAfee contended, is “dematerialization.” “We are substituting code and data for atoms, for materials out there in the world,” he said, twice. As evidence he cited energy-efficient buildings and our increasing ability to produce more food using less land. I found this puzzling because buildings and crops are demonstrably physical entities. Surely the end result of efficiency isn’t evaporation. It also seems odd that dematerialization would be envisioned as an outgrowth of an internet of things.
|Oliver Wendell Holmes|
Note: This essay is based on my book, "Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology," forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press.