The Man Behind the Curtain: The Emotional Impact of New Technology
A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, said Arthur C. Clarke. I argue we can add a corollary: an insufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from despotism.
If we can’t understand it at all, we’re enchanted. If we can understand a bit of it – if we think we can see the man behind the curtain – we’re convinced he’s up to no good.
When we can see, or even just imagine, people pulling the levers to make it work, we’re reminded of our humanity. And we know how weak our own humanity makes us, full of emotion and imperfection. So we worry. But if we can’t see the interaction, it becomes magic from a fairytale. And we like fairytales.
If you have that kind of magical technological advance, you’re lucky. What do you do, though, if you have a merely human-scale advancement? How do you prevent people from being suspicious?
The way to work around this is – as with so many other things – just to be honest. You must humanize the man behind the curtain. Don’t let anyone assume the nefarious intentions.
Dorothy and her compatriots hated the Wizard… until they learned he was just an old Kansas man trying to do his best. When he was honest, they were won over.
It’s better to be imperfect and real. Always.