There is a gap opening. Far more dangerous than the rich / poor divide, more insipid even than the cultural iron curtain that is the Watford gap service station, this chasm is the divide between Geeks and Luddites.
This week those in the luddite sphere of influence have been queuing outside British airports, tasting baby milk and talking about the death of duty free shopping. Meanwhile, in a universe not so very far away a group of software engineers have been quietly congratulating themselves on the release of groundbreaking new software that analyses the density of liquids. This software can tell which liquids are “organic” and which are “explosive.”
At first, I could not believe that, given the situation, people weren’t jumping up and down screaming at BAA to install this software. However, upon mature reflection I can believe it. Tech systems of this nature have an appalling reputation, primarily down to several recent high-profile balls-ups but also partly because hi tech companies seem to be incapable of describing their product to every day normal people.
At the same time, these “every day normal people,” are so fed up with people talking to them in a language they don’t understand that they immediately dismiss all technology as useless.
Apple did this brilliantly with the ipod. It wasn’t a “portable personal music hub,” it was “a great new way of listening to your songs.” The recent explosion in social media has been driven by word of mouth, one friend talking to another in a language they understand.
By its nature, Tech PR understands technology and often concentrates on selling products within the closed geekosphere. Conversely consumer PR understands consumers, of whom the vast majority are entirely apathetic towards the hows and whys of technology.
Having spent so much time and effort on research and development, I can see how easy it would be to focus on how tech does what it does, but as a consumer (and former luddite), what I really want to know is what it does and how that benefits me. The software shouldn’t be about liquid densities, it should be about safe and speedy transit through airports.
Whilst not embracing the ipod will never be dangerous, increasingly there will technologies that can save lives or preserve our way of life in an ever more uncertain environment. If the public can’t or won’t trust these technologies then the ramifications could be catastrophic.