I learned about Debora L. Spar, the new head of Barnard College, as a name that is tied to women in technology. I started reading one of her books, Ruling the Waves: From the Compass to the Internet, a History of Business and Politics along the Technological Frontier, in an effort to learn more about her.
Just a few pages into the book I realized that I don’t read enough material that takes a high level look at technology and the changes technology brings about. I get caught up in reading very technical tomes and don’t step back for a look at the big picture. This book is going to be the start of a new quest for knowledge, and I can already tell it will be a brilliant beginning to the process.
What I don’t know is what to read next. Can you suggest some good reading? I’d appreciate any tips you can leave me for where to go next in my reading on the trends, movements, and high level overview of technological changes.
I’m a bit of an anomaly in my age group; eldergeeks are a rare breed. As a result of that, I mix with a very diverse group of people in various age groups in my private and professional lives. I have friends who are unsure what a browser is and think copying and pasting text is hugely challenging. And I have friends who write code as easily as they breathe and can’t imagine how to navigate the day without the Internet.
The other day I was out shopping with my son and granddaughter. We were in my car. I had Feeling Good in the CD player, a Randy Crawford jazz album, and nobody complained about the music so it just continued to play. (My music choices are not always appreciated by my children and grandchildren.) My son listened to Randy Crawford a while and started talking about how her voice reminded him of an episode of The Cosby Show, one where Vanessa joined an band and a famous singer came on the show for a guest spot. I didn’t remember that particular episode but Randy Crawford didn’t seem like a likely candidate for that. She was too young at the time. I suggested maybe it was Della Reese. He vetoed that idea.
When we got back to the house he went to the computer and and within 90 seconds he said, “Here it is. Betty Carter.”
“Yes,” I said, “that would be someone Cosby would admire.” I gave him a mini-lesson on Betty Carter and we did a little more talking about our favorite episodes of The Cosby Show.
This sort of instant fact finding is commonplace in my life. It is the merely most recent of many such examples. It’s normal to me. But it isn’t normal to everyone. It seems very strange to some people.
I know people have always had a multitude of interests. One may be reading Civil War history while another golfs and another knits and another prepares a meal for friends. Wide-ranging interests in life don’t feel like the kind of divider between the past and present the way technology does. Maybe I’m making too much of this: maybe a ragged edge always marks change and the ragged edges of technological change are no new thing. But I’m ready to start thinking about it. What should be on my reading list?