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      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 5th 2013
    So I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes something a "good" technology. Not necessarily a successful technology, or a common technology, or even a hackable technology, but what sort of innovations and products are really worth our time as producers, investors, consumers, and of course, as artists with something to say on the subject of technology. Which is to say, a sizeable fraction of Whitechaplains.

    My personal definition of a good technology, I've decided, is one that solves a concrete problem, and solves it efficiently, affordably, and with a sense of empathy towards the people who will benefit from or otherwise be affected by the technology.

    A very good example of what I'm talking about would be the designers and engineers at Bespoke Innovations, who design custom prosthetic limbs for amputees, most often diabetic amputees. I've got a soft spot for this guys in particular, because one of my sisters is Type 1 diabetic, and while she does still have all her limbs, it's good to know that if something bad happens, there's someone out there in the technology world thinking of ways to help her.

    Here's an interview with Scott Summit, Bespoke's #1 guy:

    So, Whitechapel: What do you think makes a good technology, and what examples of such have you been running across lately?
    • CommentTimeSep 5th 2013
    It's so nice to see threads like this Whitechapel once again.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeSep 6th 2013
    Not sure this is quite the sort of thing you're talking about but I saw this recently :

    Fairphone is producing the first smartphone in the market to open up its supply chain with transparency about how it is produced, distributed and disposed of when its first and second phases of life come to an end. Fairphone - ChinaWhile you are reading these lines, the team in the Netherlands and the UK are squeezing their brains to find the best materials (conflict-free, less pollutant); a group of sharp researchers are looking into the potential footprint of the handset, and an independent company is carrying out a social assessment at their partner factory in China.

    "The most special thing about the Fairphone is that all parts are for sale via the website; everything from th e battery to the camera motherboard and all the other parts that can possibly be replaced. It includes a manual that helps users to repair it themselves. Our adopted manifesto is 'If you can't open it, you don't own it'."

    A fair trade smart phone! After reading endlessly about Foxconn over the years, it's a relief to find that someone is working on fairtrade tech...
    (via the co-op)
    • CommentTimeSep 6th 2013
    This might be of interest here: THE CRITICAL ENGINEERING MANIFESTO

    some examples can be found here:
  1.  (11157.5)
    I used to work for a woman who responded to every random request to purchase a new piece of tech by asking "What is the problem that this is the solution for?" I think that's a key point: it has to be more than just a cool toy or nifty gadget, it has to solve a problem, preferably without creating too many new ones.
  2.  (11157.6)
    One of my blogs,, is all about this kind of technology.

    Do people mind if I pull from here?
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 6th 2013
    I don't mind, certainly.

    Jason, that sounds like the perfect mentality for this sort of thing.
  3.  (11157.8)
    Minus points for not putting this in the first post, Alan:

      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 7th 2013
    That might be the first time I've heard a guitar with an English accent.
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
    I was going to post about the FairPhone when I realised that this is where I heard about it from.

    At the moment, the way I'm trying to mitigate the impact of my tech addiction is to not buy every single new model that comes out. Yesterday, I had the home button, loud speaker module and battery replaced on my iPhone 4. This will hopefully keep it going for at LEAST another year of new shiny models, etc. I was surprised that it costs so little to fix these things. I went outside of Apple to fix it and it cost me 70 quid, which translates to just a little over 10% of the asking price for my iPhone when I bought it (off contract). That is a tiny price to pay for the continued existence of my phone and a slightly clearer conscience.

    I'm very interested to see where the FairPhone goes. I would be happy to take a hit on usability and quality to have a phone that was more sustainably and fairly produced... Up to a point. If it turns out to be an actual, good product where the fairness isn't the ONLY selling point, I will consider it, or at least whatever generation it's at when I need to buy a new phone. I would prefer for them to come out with another, higher-end model, but that might also happen, so who knows. I really really hope they do well and enjoy a continued existence.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
    Speaking of phones:


    Modular, customizable, upgradeable phones.
  4.  (11157.12)
    Interesting idea, but it seems likely that it'll end up producing more e-waste, not less. Most people upgrade their phones every two years or so (source). That is (I think) mostly due to the expense and hassle of buying a whole new phone. Allowing modular upgrade-ability suddenly dramatically increases the turnaround for components. It seems like there's a new phone with a significant increase in processor speed, or memory, or screen resolution every two or three months now. Remove the requirement of having to get a whole new phone for those benefits and suddenly it becomes: "There's a new processor block! *buys* *throws out old processor*" "There's a new camera! *buys* *throws out old camera*" etc.

    And software on it would be a huge hassle, both for developers and end-users. Welcome to the fun fun world of driver updates and compatibility checks, mobile users!
  5.  (11157.13)
    I can just imagine what a nightmare that'll be for Android fragmentation and manufacturer reliability. "Well, I'm running IceCreamToothpickGString with an A29 processor, a camera I got off some guy in a shack on Fiji, three batteries from Hong Kong, and a vibrator module I found in Chelsea. Somehow, naked pictures of me keep ending up on the Internet. Unrelated."
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2013
    You could do this, but unless you adopted Apple-like closedness, I'm certain the previously mentioned fragmentation issues would most definitely occur.
  6.  (11157.15)
    Apparently /r/engineering has some serious reservations about the technical feasibility of this concept as well.
      CommentAuthorDoc Ocassi
    • CommentTimeSep 17th 2013
    I would like to keep this thread going, I find it a very interesting topic, I would like to know what people think about the difference between good technology as a tool, as the use of a tool, or the development of science (body of knowledge). How these aspects will have different criteria with regards to the labelling of good.

    TBH. I don't find much in here to be exceptional in terms of good technology, more like toys for technological-consumerists, with ethics as an afterthought.

    Here is a link that is only vaguely related, but it does seem like an apt place to put it.
    Jonathan Franzen: what's wrong with the modern world
    It is quite long so I won't mind a tl,dr.

    I will write more. or answer any questions.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeSep 18th 2013
    Has this been discussed on here before? Am I late to the party?


    Across the US, from Maryland to Seattle, work is underway to construct user-owned wireless networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. They are known as meshnets and ultimately, if their designers get their way, they will span the country.

    Dan Ryan is one of the leaders of the Seattle Meshnet project, where sparse coverage already exists thanks to radio links set up by fellow hackers. Those links mean that instead of communicating through commercial internet connections, meshnetters can talk to each other through a channel that they themselves control.

    I mean it's not inherently good per se, but definitely interesting. Especially if you are on the "concerned" side of the NSA debate.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeSep 18th 2013
    @ Doc
    This quote from Karl Klaus, 100 years ago: "Culture can't catch its breath, and in the end a dead humanity lies next to its works, whose invention cost us so much of our intellect that we had none left to put them to use. We were complicated enough to build machines and too primitive to make them serve us." Slow clap.
    • CommentTimeSep 18th 2013 edited
    Wow I was enthralled with the idea of Phonebloks and then I read the posts afterwards and sai "mierda" out loud.
    Still I could see it happening. Same with tablets. But a lesser extent i think.

    @badbear thats why I don't believe in the singularity (thats right I said it) , because we have all these technological advances and no moral/culture/spiritual ones.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeSep 19th 2013 edited
    Slat’s idea consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Working with the flow of nature, his solution to the problematic shifting of trash is to have the array span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel as the ocean moves through it. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from smaller forms, such as plankton, and be filtered and stored for recycling. The issue of by-catches, killing life forms in the procedure of cleaning trash, can be virtually eliminated by using booms instead of nets and it will result in a larger areas covered. Because of trash’s density compared to larger sea animals, the use of booms will allow creatures to swim under the booms unaffected, reducing wildlife death substantially.