Technology isn’t the future, it’s the culture

Technology is slowly ceasing to be something in its own right, as it becomes the very heart of our culture.

Stowe Boyd highlighted this quote on his blog over the weekend:

Technology isn’t a section in the newspaper any more. It’s the culture.

It’s from Ben Smith, the editor in chief of Buzzfeed, quoted in a piece by Maureen Dowd for the New York Times.

The quote is, to me, more interesting that the article it exists in.

It’s been resonating in my head for the last couple of days, simply because it echoes very neatly what was said to me by an editor back in the late 90s. I’d just successfully pitched and had accepted the idea of incorporating technology and business management as their own section of the magazine I was writing for. The was the era of the dot com bubble and eBusiness, when the web started to be taken seriously by most people. Just as now, new businesses were springing up in this space, often with enviable funding and claims that they would change the world.

There’s no future in the future

The editor’s point was this: they were right. Over time these startups, or the ones that followed them, would change the world to the point where what they were doing would no longer be worth writing about on its own. eBusiness (whatever happened to that phrase?) would cease to be a subset of business, and would just become businesses.

“There’s no future in this game,” he told me.

In a sense, he was right. Half a decade later, I killed the section, with his agreement, by merging it into a fuller features section.

It wasn’t that tech had ceased being an issue – it hadn’t. It was just that we were in the plateau of productivity stage (if you know the Gartner Hype Cycle) for the initial use of the web in that industry, and the online stuff couldn’t quite sustain its own section editorially any more.

In the years since, though, that move has become common. Newspaper technology sections are increasingly rare, and tech magazines are following in their wake. Instead, what we have is business and culture, which are now deeply intertwined with technology. Technology is no longer a geeky cultural ghetto: it is the culture.

In a world full of tech blogs and tech conferences, I still think that NEXT has a unique voice in being focused on the intersection of business, culture and tech, rather than just the tech.