Technology has become paramount to the way we live our lives. Given the amount of time we spend engaging with our gadgets and apps, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of tech.

Tech isn’t a smooth journey

It’s easy to see technology as a never-ending positive progression that constantly makes things better for us all. However, new tech products often come with a set of trade-offs. Improvements in usability or design can negatively affect privacy or security. Just because a technology is improved in some ways doesn’t guarantee it will be widely adopted.

Technological advances are barely ever a simple journey. There are all kinds of dead-ends, regressions and uneven trade-offs along the way.

 

Most people in tech genuinely want to do good

We can be critical of tech products and companies without believing they are “bad”. Most tech creators really do want to have a positive impact on the world. It’s critical to believe that there is good intention underlying technological efforts if we’re going to effectively hold everyone accountable for the tech they create.

At the same time, it’s important for tech creators to understand that good intentions don’t absolve them from the negative consequences of their work, no matter how well-meaning.

 

It’s never just one single genius behind a technology

 A popular depiction of tech innovation is the genius in a garage coming up with a breakthrough innovation.

In reality, tech is usually formed by the insights and values of the community where its creators are based. Real creation stories are complex and involve many people, and nearly every breakthrough is led by years of others trying to create similar products.

 

Most tech companies make money in just one of three ways

It’s important to be familiar with how tech companies make money if you want to understand why tech works the way that it does.

  • Advertising: For example, Facebook make nearly all their money from selling information about users to advertisers. Search results and social feeds made by advertising companies are strongly incentivised to push you toward certain sites or apps, that show you even more ads!
  • Big Business: Some of the larger tech organisations, like Microsoft, exist by getting money from other big companies that need business software and are willing to pay a premium if it’s easy to manage.
  • Individuals: Companies like Apple and Amazon want you to pay them directly for their products. This is one of the most straightforward business models. You know exactly what you’re getting when you buy a physical product or when you subscribe to a media streaming service.

Tech is fashion as well as function

Creating apps or devices is often seen as a rational process where engineers choose technologies based on which are the most advanced and appropriate to the task.

However, just as often, the methodology of tech creation can follow fads or trends that are in fashion. This can affect everything from how meetings are run to how products are developed, so a more complex technology doesn’t always mean a more valuable end product!