Thoughts on the Reith Lectures April 26, 2005
I have been listening to the 2005 Reith Lectures, and can only reiterate my previous recommendation. I knew that Lord Broers was an inveterate tech booster, and his first two lectures have failed to disappoint on that front. Regular readers of GH know that I am critical of those who espouse progress for its own sake and perceive the negative impacts of technological advances as merely minor side effects. Lord Broers does fall into this category, though his responses to these very criticisms are among the most thoughtful I have encountered.
The lectures so far have made me think and question my own assumptions. But one overarching aspect of the talks has had me thinking the most, and it is something about which I have become more and more confused. The lectures include a question period with the audience which is often critical of the ideas put forth in the lectures. However everyone seems to agree on one thing: people (and in this case, I think specifically Britons) are uninterested in learning about and supporting the development of technology. Much of the question period after the first lecture seemed to be composed of a bunch of engineers whingeing about how, like some latter day Rodney Dangerfield, they just don’t get any respect.
I am completely baffled by this. I have never lived in the UK, and claim to have no particular knowledge of specific attitudes. I do know, however, that the use of high end mobile technology for telephony and data transfer is extremely common - much more common than it is in North America. I know that England has all the high tech stuff we have in North America, and I know that sometime is woks more seamlessly there than it does here. And some recent studies have shown that in a land that still charges a TV tax, people are getting more and more of their entertainment over the Internet.
I really don’t think that folks in the UK are luddites in comparison with their North American counterparts, though I suppose if one is making comparisons with some Asian countries it may seem that way. But I think that more people the world over share Lord Broers’ view of technology as a positive agent for progress than are critical of engineering advances. Even in England.