Unrealized potentials

Sony Walkman TPS-L2 med headset

Social change and economic impact are not things that can be extrapolated out of a piece of hardware. New technologies are unrealized potentials – building blocks whose eventual impact will depend on what is designed and constructed with them. The shape they ultimately take will be determined by our ability to visualize how they might be applied in new contexts.

From Nathan Rosenberg’s seminal 1995 McKinsey Quarterly article on Innovation’s uncertain terrain.

It’s probably the neatest summary of my attitude to technology and why without re-imagining the society that surrounds them, all the windmills, solar arrays and miracle-engineered crops won’t do the jobs our technologists and policy wonks think they will.