Creating Our Inner Necessities: Innovation and Technological Progress

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This infographic, titled “Envisioning Emerging Technology For 2012 and Beyond”, by Michael Zappa, maps predictions for what is to come during the next two decades of technological development. From synthetic blood to space tourism, these technologies aren’t just indicators of emerging products and markets, they also reflect our cultural mores — in other words, what we hope our future will look like.

Carl Jung once said:

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity.

I can’t help but wonder if the prized innovations of our day today truly reflect our inner necessities. With Instagram we capture images that hark back to our nostalgic polaroid past and Google Glass allows us to wear a computer that helps direct our everyday actions and seamlessly share the photos it takes every 10 seconds!  When “smart every-things” (smart phones, houses, and even toys ) are able to anticipate our desires, then where is the agency is the decisions we make, if the technology is designed to predict our inner necessities?

Author Nicholas Carr sheds some interesting insight on this topic. He writes:

Ideas of progress are shaped by human needs, and broad shifts in those needs have necessarily influenced the course of innovation. The technologies we invent have tended to move…from tools that aid us in safeguarding our bodies to tools that help us to feel peppier, prettier and more special—from tools of survival to tools of the self.

Technology is an enabler. The bow and arrow enabled our ancestors to achieve one end, Instagram helps us achieve another. But what exactly is that end, beyond self-expression? Perhaps we’ll have to wait until 2040 when we have machine augmented cognition to help us answer that question!

About Sona Makker

Sona is a first-year law student studying technology law at Santa Clara University. She’s an advocate for online privacy, digital rights, and public access to the public domain. If she’s not arguing with her siblings over whether This American Life is better than Radiolab, you’ll probably find her whipping up vegetarian dishes, or attempting to do a headstand in yoga class.
Posted in: Culture, Tech and Environment