Semi-random thoughts (and some motivations) about innovation and digital technology
(this is a partial translation of an article I published on the italian Pionero Web magazine in April 2014. The second part is here). _Several of my publications and projects come, among other things, from these considerations (which of course I am not the only one to have made!):
- my official slogan since 2006⁄2007: Your civil rights and the quality of your life heavily depend on how software is used AROUND you
- lack of broadband connectivity as an explanation for “digital backwardness” of whatever kind is often a scam, in the sense that it is too often used as an (if unconscious!) excuse for not doing, with computers, things that would be useful and possible without broadband
- As a species, we can support, and maybe really need, just ONE place really like Silicon Valley, or very few ones anyway, every generation. Very, very, very few people worldwide are born top notch programmer. Besides, it’s highly dubious we need much more of what passes for innovation in Silicon Valley right now, or at least pay the prices it expects. How will all those other thousands programmers (and local “innovation programs”) trying to clone the Silicon Valley pay for themselves, in the long term? I’m not saying we should give up computers and digital innovation, mind you! Long live 2.0/3.0/N.0 digital startups, hackatons and the whole circus, as long as nobody deludes herself that those things will solve (even indirectly) the employment problems of the majority of people
- 3D printing is real cool for sure (we are in the “you can’t be fired for sponsoring a 3D printing event” age) but maybe, in the long run, 3D printing will produce less social benefits than humbler things like Open Source design of CNC machines, furniture and so on.
- Ditto for Smart Cities e similar “Grand Digital Masterplans” at the national and international level. Making the big cities “smart” is mandatory, but Italy and many other places are still made mostly of small towns, with quite different needs.
- Calling “new technologies” computers, Internet and similar stuff that, in many places has been available for twenty years now is terribly superficial. Even when done in good faith. Too often, however, it is just a way to build excuses for one’s lack of action. These things are (see point 1) basic civic education, not technology training. Even inside Public Administration. All too often, calling or labeling something that an Administration MUST do “digital” is just a way to delay or ignore it.
- Real, serious education of young people about digital issues is mandatory. Because, in too many cases, “digital native” only means “I don’t have the slightest clue about what I’m REALLY doing with this touchscreen thingy, AND I am really proud of it”. At the same time, in contries rapidly aging as Italy is doing these days, educating young people is absolutely NOT enough. In Italy, and in all other places with a similar demographic structure, it is ALL of us adults and senior citizens who must wake up and push NOW for the digital restructuring of many activities. Otherwise we won’t get anything concrete done soon enough to really benefit from it.
- Consequently, the sooner we (even, no, especially, in “old” countries) switch off analog, paper-based procedures and mindsets, the better. If we really wait to be really ready for real “Five Star” Open Data and similar stuff, we will never be.