Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Technical Darwinianism

If the US and the UK were once said to be two countries divided by the same language, today they are two countries divided by the same technology.

Americans have long ranted about Tivo and its time shifting experience. Brits shrug their shoulders and point to the Sky + box, which is in every way (particularly ease of use - my mum has one) superior.

However, the Slingbox, an ingenious device that rebroadcasts your TV shows over the internet so that you can access them wherever you are has been around in the US for some time, with still no sign of a PAL version for the UK market.

If you walk down any high street in the UK you'll do well to avoid being walked into by someone texting, but in the US you'll see similar people holding their phones in front of them and talking into them using the walkie talkie function.

No hotel in the US would dream of not providing broadband in your room, whilst in the UK it is still a luxury.

It never ceases to fascinate me how different people in the global village are and how they make different use of the same technology. It lead me to ask myself how Darwinian technology is.

There are plenty of examples of inferior technology winning out - VHS over Betamax is often used as an example, as is Windows over the Mac OS. But, as in nature, sometimes it's a numbers game, and having a larger base increases your chances of survival ( terms like 'landgrab' and 'critical mass' can be heard in the marketing departments of tech companies around the world).
In the real world, very specialist creatures thrive in their niches, whilst other animals are ubiquitous. Again, it sounds familiar..

But perhaps the most interesting phenomenon is how evolution is speeding up - man has achieved more in the past two centuries than the previous twenty millennia. Similarly the evolution of technology has reached breakneck speed. It's not about the survival of the fittest any more, but the survival of the quickest...

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