It has been a few years in the making (from the first conceptual idea to publication) but the baby has been delivered and is now available at CRC Press.
It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.
― Oscar Wilde
In walking in my new neighborhood in San Francisco, I got to notice something interesting in front of a couple of houses: small tiny houses! Too big to be bird houses and almost the size of doll houses. The second interesting fact of these houses: they have books in it, protected by a glass or plastic door. The third and final interesting element, they all have the same inscription: take a book, leave a book (as in the picture below).
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke
I certainly love technology. They are enablers for thing we thought impossible to perform in a reasonable amount of time just a decade ago. My children laugh at me when I tell them of my first 20 Mb drive, which was the size of a big, thick pizza box. The comparative for them are the 32 or 64 Gb thumb drive! Similarly, today cellphones are more powerful than supercomputer of the 1980’s.
The growing complexity of technology is remarkable and many technologies “evolve” at a rapid, accelerating pace. Kevin Kelly’s book What Technology Wants constitutes a highly recommended read. The increasing complexity is illustrated for numerous technologies as function of years. Furthermore, there is an interesting discussion about the human-technology interaction and how difficult it is to anticipate the numerous failure modes (what can actually go wrong) when dealing with complex systems and trying to include fail safe measures.
I would also like to point out this TED talk entitled how technology evolves.
Seth Godin has written an very interesting (and free) manifesto about the US school system (though the birth of Canada school system is very similar in origin): Stop Stealing Dreams. The book is very well written and will take only a few evening to get through.
Many instances had me stop reading and ponder. The example of LEGO (item 51 in the book) is something me, friends and colleagues have been discussing for a while; it is the concept of pre-made LEGO model which comes with instructions. It removes much of the creative process and turns the fun of doing LEGO into a purely technical step-by-step process. Generic LEGO are clearly missing (not to say that the new LEGO cannot be fun).
Similarly, I found more than often very bright students finishing their undergrad studies with extremely good grades but in a situation where they are unable to to function in graduate school because the “questions” are not given to them: they now have to ask their own questions and also find the answers. These students had become extremely proficient at performing on “imposed” questions with very clear answers such as exams, finals and so on, but are lost when they have to tackle a much less rigid projects (e.g. a PhD thesis).