A few days ago, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Farhad Manjoo, titled “For the New Year, Let’s Resolve to Improve Our Tech Literacy”. This deeply resonates with me, and all of us at littleBits. I believe we have let technology get too far ahead of us, and allowed our comprehension of the 21st century to lag.
Earlier this year, I wrote a MAKE book (with fellow Maker Matt Richardson), and expressed much of the same concerns:
We spend more than 11 hours with electronic devices every single day, but most of us don’t know how they work, or how to make our own. When I first started working on littleBits in 2008, this number was 7.5. Technology has moved from being an integral part of our lives, to helping define who we are. It’s the cars we drive, the phones we own, the alarm systems that keep us safe, the iPads that 2 year old kids swipe. Yet engineering is mysticized, electronic objects are black-boxed, and if we are honest with ourselves, we have ceased to understand the technological world we live in. And in the meantime, the world is moving at a very fast pace, from the internet of things to artificial intelligence, each with their own promises and challenges. How can we solve the challenges we face today if we don’t understand the world we live in? I believe that to solve 21st century challenges—economic, environmental, medical—we don’t need more, we need smarter. Tomorrow’s sense of pride will come from inventing the future.
We’ve seen what happened when the financial industry became too complicated for most of us to understand. The same happened when cyber security blindsided most of the world and proved itself to be a real scare. We don’t need more scares to convince us to pay attention to technology. It’s time we decided to (re)learn the language of the day and embrace technology literacy – for our kids but also for ourselves – or we will go back to the Middle Ages. In fact, just last week, I had a conversation with WIRED about the same topic. They eloquently summarized our conversation:
The 33-year-old founder and CEO of littleBits likes to compare the engineers of today to the clergy of the Middle Ages, who controlled access to knowledge and power via their monopoly over the use and understanding of the written word.
So back to the original point: For the New Year, Let’s Resolve to Improve Our Tech Literacy. In 2016, Let’s spend time understanding the world around us, breaking it down, reinventing it. Let’s not take for granted the electronics we consume, the devices that control our days, the robots that make our lives better. Rather, let’s embrace them and participate in them. In this spirit, we would like to further support The New York Times’ resolution. Today through December 30th, we are happy to offer 25% off all littleBits products, to help you kickstart this resolution at home. Use the code INVENT25 at checkout. (Logged-in Educators should use INVENT25EDU.) Next year we will also plan to create more apps, workshops, lessons and products to support understanding this mission further.
As The New York Times quotes Julius Genachowski, the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission: “The pace of technological change has never been faster, so it’s more important for people to understand things that are harder to keep on top of.”
We could not agree more.