Technology is anthropology

TechCrunch | 1/26/2020 | Staff
aka1aka1 (Posted by) Level 4
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The interesting thing about the technology business is that, most of the time, it’s not the technology that matters. What matters is how people react to it, and what new social norms they form. This is especially true in today’s era, well past the midpoint of the deployment age of smartphones and the Internet.

People — smart, thoughtful people, with relevant backgrounds and domain knowledge — thought that Airbnb and Uber were doomed to failure, because obviously no one would want to stay in a stranger’s home or ride in a stranger’s car. People thought the iPhone would flop because users would “detest the touch screen interface.” People thought enterprise software-as-a-service would never fly because executives would insist on keeping servers in-house at all costs.

Thees - People - Technology - Nobody - Technology

Thees people were so, so, so wrong; but note that they weren’t wrong about the technology. (Nobody really argued about the technology.) Instead they were dead wrong about other people, and how their own society and culture would respond to this new stimulus. they were anthropologically incorrect.

This, of course, is why every major VC firm, and every large tech company, keeps a crack team of elite anthropologists on call at all times, with big budgets and carte blanche, reporting directly to the leadership team, right? (Looks around.) Oh. Instead they’re doing focus groups and user interviews, asking people in deeply artificial settings to project their usage of an alien technology in an unknown context, and calling that their anthropological, I’m sorry, their market research? Oh.

Sort - Crack - Team - Anthropologists - Answer

I kid, I kid. Sort of, at least, in that I’m not sure a crack team of elite anthropologists would be all that much more effective. It’s hard enough getting an accurate answer of how a person would use a new technology when that’s the only variable. When they live in a constantly...
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