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Ignorance is spawning a climate of tech fear
From mobiles frying brains to limits on the mobile spectrum - it's all tosh
Written in a Vancouver diner and dispatched to silicon.com via a free wi-fi service in London a week later.
Why are people predisposed to being damagingly negative rather than curious and rational? Perhaps it's because it's a lot easier and people really like bad news.
During a typical year I will attend and present at numerous professional conferences, as well as at company, government and university events. Of late I have noticed a very definite trend in the rise of negativity and hopelessness.
Frequently, a presenter will take his or her chosen topic and deliver it according to the following general formula:
Having sat through at least 30 such sessions over the past months, I have noticed something very significant. The nay-sayers have all been wrong. Not in a small way, but in a big way. Indeed, they have been so wrong that I have been moved to challenge the presenters.
What then transpires is mildly astonishing. We are subjected to badly researched materials and facts, misunderstood data and statistics, distributions for data and phenomenon that are assumed to be Gaussian - bell-shaped or normal - but which clearly are not, vested interests and axe-grinding, and a general ignorance of the technology and current developments at the core of the topic.
I know I am not a polymath and I like to think that I know what I don't know, but I have always read widely, asked a lot of questions, challenged, and been happy to be challenged. To me, being wrong or off-centre is a learning opportunity and not an excuse to side-step or leave early. If I don't know, or I'm uncertain, I say so.
Let me give two examples from the same sector to highlight the problem.
Go above this frequency and magical things occur. First, the attenuation due to atmospheric resonances limits propagation to a few kilometres down to 100m, which is ideal for frequency reuse, and a great example of working with nature instead of against it.
Secondly, the bandwidth available above 30GHz is more than 1,000-fold that currently allocated for mobile operators below 3GHz.
Beyond these two specific examples I really feel under threat from global warming, raw materials running out, technology warping our brains and much more. Am I terrified? No.
There are likely to be solutions to all these bogeymen because most of them are mistakes, misconceptions, or the product of incomplete thinking. But they do get speaking slots and the audience gets visibly worried.