Jon Roberts | Manifesto

1) We should accept smartphones and high-speed across-the-air data (3G, 4G, etc.) as a vital way to access information.

While many people accept smartphone technology, another large contingent vow against having one—often citing high data rates and expensive, fragile phones. However, having data at hand at all times has revolutionized how we communicate, travel, do business, develop content, and share information, among other things. Technology that makes all of this readily accessible is not going to go away, so we should accept and implement it.

I saw this smartphone and 3G (in the case of my iPhone) as welcome technology when I first got one. Like many, I was a late adopter of the technology because I didn’t see its utility until I had one. Now, however, I see the benefits smartphones afford me. I am a better student and worker because I have access to email all the time and can reply promptly. By having new and weather available to me I am better prepared in my daily life. While it isn’t completely necessary yet, someday we will probably replace many of our peripherals like credit cards and car keys with smartphones and the transition will become less and less optional.

There are implications, obviously, to this pervasive acceptance, but many of these issues could be reformed. One major factor is that smartphones are still prohibitively expensive for many people. However, if employer or government subsidies of these technologies were implemented, more people could have access. This would allow employers to more easily interact workers and governments to make citizens safer, so this could be easily adopted.


2) We should use cloud-based storage technologies when possible.

Cloud-based storage allows individuals to access information over networks that would otherwise require carrying computer, hard drives, or external drives with them. Because data is stored off-site in (hopefully) safe facilities, there is a much less risk of data loss to the individual. If outsourcing data is a great safety concern, there are also a number of locally-stored cloud solutions for this niche. In these cases, the physical data stays stored at home or work as the individual travels.

I opted to embrace this technology through Dropbox because it allowed my school and work files to be backed up in a place that, even if my computer and external hard drive crashed, my individual data would stay safe. I adopted this technology shortly after Dropbox came on the market for free and now this technology allows for far more control, even, than a simple storage system. The user interface allows for me to see a complete revision history of any file I stored and even restore to a plethora of previous copies at my discretion. This has saved me more than once when I accidentally deleted important elements of a work.

Cloud computer certainly has some security risk and concerns for society, but if the user is truly scared of that there are many options for local cloud computing systems. These allow the user to store data where they feel comfortable but access it from anywhere. This is a good solution for the security conscious consumer. We should accept cloud storage because it is an elegant and well-executed response to data backups and recovery, at least on a consumer level.


3) We ought to explore and accept technologies where an activity is made faster, more efficient, and safer by way of getting rid of the element of human interaction and error.

We ought to explore and accept technologies where an activity is made faster, more efficient, and safer by way of getting rid of the element of human interaction and error.

Often, we seek out technological solutions before there is a real need for them. Other times, however, technologies that may already be feasible and greatly reduce risk and energy loss are not accepted because of political or social constraints. Examples of this include autonomous car designs and high-speed rail. Both technologies would take the component of human error away from the activity of travel, thereby reducing risk. These technologies, along with being safer, are also more efficient than our current solutions.

I haven’t adopted these technologies because they are not available, but would adopt them quickly if there were reliable and at a price that was affordable. High-speed rail, especially, would transform how our transportation networks in this country work. If this technology was made affordable to everyone, we could see a much greater expansion of travel for both business and tourism. Trains traveling at 200mph that could safely and reliably transport people would shape how we look at travel, commutes, and distance.

American culture is closely tied to the idea of the freedom of the road the autonomy of the car. A shift in that would no doubt have a cultural effect on Americans; however, many countries already rely heavily on rail technologies and public transportation. They are effective and useful for transporting people, so they would be adopted well. This ought to be considered for the manifesto because revolutionizing travel would create great leaps in combating climate change and habitat loss, which could far positive and far-reaching effects for everyone.


4) In a university setting, we ought to be wary to accept new technologies unless they present a clear improvement on the teaching and educational ability of the institution.

I can’t speak to other university settings but Virginia Tech often becomes obsessed with being early adopters and “Inventing the future” that we use many technologies that don’t actually aid in the learning environment of the university. For hundreds of years, the same basic system of education has yielded bright minds, genius scientists, scholars, doctors, lawyers, etc. There is no reason to believe that having a few tablet PCs in a classroom goes on to transform minds any better than a textbook and lecture material.

I adopt this policy and feel adamant about it because I often feel not bogged down by my homework’s material and class workloads, but rather only the technology that I’m required to use in order to complete a lot of it. Often, we use web-applications, programs, or information to complete our assignment that was already outdated by the time it filtered down into academia far enough for teachers to use the ideas in their classrooms. Sure, some technology is useful and I’m not saying we should get rid of things like computers or projectors in classrooms; we should merely be conscious of our decisions to use technologies that may have less clear values. We should be apt to say “no” when a technology undermines the teacher’s educational pedagogy or otherwise hinders (or merely ceases to benefit) the students.


Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print. Chapter 2, in which he talks about Amish only accepting technology after careful thought.

5) We should not invest in technologies where there is not a clear need for advancement; we should allocate resources elsewhere.

This statement deals with some ethical concerns related to where we invest resources for the research and development of new technologies. Often, we overlook problems that could use solutions because there is more financial gain in shinier, more main-stage tech. If we implemented this on a large scale, however, society would have to change their view from a money-focused to a more humanitarian-focused outlook. It would be hard—likely impossible—to convince people who make exorbitant amounts of money selling shiny technology to think about developing technologies to aid humanity in a more non-profit sense.

I would like to adopt this idea in order to extend my personal philosophies to strive for a life involved with a good amount (and good balance) with volunteerism, entrepreneurism, and humanitarianism. I cannot say that I would be completely set on creating unprofitable technologies for the benefit of a “greater good” simply because this would not allow me to support myself. However, I would like to see a great balance between shiny technologies and those that could really benefit humanity.

Technologies I have in mind are a company diverting some—not all—of their research budgets from, say, a new smartphone into technologies that might create better communication coverage in third world countries or better distribution of health knowledge. I also consider more concrete technologies like water filtration and food transport in the wake of the recent typhoon. If only a small fraction of research budgets used for new products were used in projects like this, companies could begin to provide large-scale aid to people in need of more basic necessities than the next iPhone or laptop.

Below are some examples of inventions that are the type of technologies I see coming out from this sort of thing:

6) We ought not to seek solutions where there is no problem.

Before the thought of the many technologies like the Internet, smartphones, and satellites, etc. we didn’t really have a concept of need for these. However, they all arose to fill a niche and need. For satellites, it was a military need. For the Internet, it was both military and scientific. For smartphones, people needed a better way to access information on the go. All these technologies solved problems that were very real. Other times, though, developers make new technologies with no real problem to fix in mind.
Perhaps the problem, in the example of a technology corporation, could just be the need to refresh interest and gain profits, but that is not a relevant enough need.

Technological evolution is generally expensive, time consuming, and taxing on both human and raw resources. We should not, or need not, invest all these resources unless we can determine a problem that requires a solution.

There is no way to fully accomplish this because some people will always see need where others won’t. However, I can personally decide what projects are worth it to me to invest in. Assuming I had real control over projects of this nature, which I don’t, I would ask myself if this research into a new piece of technology was truly warranted. Does it make anything safer? faster? more fun? more efficient? If the answer were not “yes” to any of these, I would consider not moving forward with a project.

The societal implications for this would be far-reaching. People would begin to learn more and perhaps even consider more quality and workmanship over new and shiny. This would be a change back to a time when goods were not as mass produced and mending rather than throwing out was common. I am, of course, waxing for a time here that I never existed in. I would like to see more people consider the implications of technology and not blindly adopt new products quite so readily. This would allow us to see the worth of things for what they are and less as only a temporary stopping point in an endless cycle of upgrading.