Sympathy For The Intoxicated: Drunk On The Power of Technology

Monday, we got to meet Nathan Shumate of the accurately named LousyBookCovers. It’s a fascinating insight into the man, the project, and the . . . less than ideal covers that occasionally appear in self-publishing.

He mentioned one thing that struck a truth with me; that some people get drunk on the power that modern technology, print on demand, distribution, etc. presents. I wanted to explore that a bit because it’s rather personal, and very telling for us MuseHackers.

There’s plenty of power modern technology gives us. In many ways modern technology is all about empowering because power sells and people want to do their own thing. People want to make videos and books and music and games; many of them can now live the dreams that years ago would have stayed dreams except for a few. We have sheer ability now.

However, as we’ve seen power may not be misused but . . . well it can result in products of questionable value. Oh we’ve all done it. We all have that fanfic we don’t want to mention, that bad book cover we’re not proud of, that AMV that was kind of awful, or the company brochure that proved there’s a reason we’re shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near desktop publishing. We wonder how we missed how . . . not that great we were.

We miss it because we get drunk on the power.

We miss it because there’s all this potential and all these tools. We can make all those great things in our head real. We can make it all happen so easily, and it’s easier every year. We can be the writer or artist we thought even a scant few years ago we couldn’t. We can do so much.

It happens. It’s easy.

Know what? I can relate.

I’ve worked with technology for decades, and worked in technology for nearly two decades. Each year it’s meant that there’s more power, more amazing things, and more things that anyone can do with a little effort. Each year has resulted in more new stuff and more cool things and more ways to do. Each year has has meant more times I go “wow that’s awesome.”

Each time you see something amazing your head fills with ideas about what you can do with it. It’s so easy to just try it . . .

I get that people get drunk on the power of technology. I understand, believe me. In fact I think it’s important that we do understand that this happens, and can happen to us.  It probably has happened, we’re just not always willing to admit it (oh, I know about that fanfic you took down, don’t deny it).

I myself, having worked in technology so long, also have developed a sense of restraint and limits. I’ve seen failure and mistakes and limits and bad ideas come and go in spectacular flameouts and slinking obscurity.  I’ve made mistakes. I know limits. I think that has helped restrain me when I get a technology high.

Mostly. I have my moments where the rush of power comes. Most of them I manage to head off. Not all.

So I’m sympathetic to people who get drunk on technology and make less than optimal projects. I think we have to be sympathetic and humble, since it’s human to go off on a tear with some cool new thing, and you and I know we do it ourselves.

And that’s not counting some of the crazy stuff I considered or nearly did. But perhaps, that’s for another time . . .

– Steven Savage