Necessity is not the mother of invention

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Is necessity the mother of invention

Jonar Nader does not like the hype that is generated by industry gurus. He says that in the world of IT, necessity is rarely the mother of invention. He blames the boardroom junkies, and he calls for marketing professionals to be more responsible in what they promise consumers. To listen to an excerpt from the radio broadcast, please click on the green play button below.

Below is a transcript of the audio file.

Host: I said it was sublimely beautiful. It’s ‘Faurė the Agnus Dei’ from the Requiem, and that performance was terrific too. The Academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Neville Mariner chosen by our guest Jonar Nader. Good Morning and welcome to the programme.

Jonar Nader: Hello Margaret

Host: Thank you for choosing that, I have not heard that for ages, it is beautiful.

Jonar Nader: Yes it reminds me of the days when I was an altar boy.

Host: Oh really?

Jonar Nader: Yes, and I used to play the organ as well. I actually partly chose that because it is the kind of music you can go sleep to. That is basically why I listen to classical music. Whereas in the car, I listen to music that can navigate me through the traffic.

Host: Like Rock and roll?

Jonar Nader: No, I’m too young for that; techno.

Host: Techno music! So you use classical music to go to sleep.

Jonar Nader: Yes, and that is why you will notice the choice of music today does not have any abrupt moments, no baritone screaming some domestic at his wife. I hate that. That is why I don’t watch television. I hate domestics.

Host: Do you, we’ll find out a bit late why you hate domestics, but it’s interesting because we were listening to your music this morning and it is all very melodious and very dreaming some how.

Jonar Nader: Yes, it is. I think music has multiple roles. One is to either to absorb you and take you into the composer’s world, and one is to block out others, or shield you so that you can enter into your own world. I find that this kind of music shields me so that I can go into my own world.

Host: and go to sleep.

Jonar Nader: or dream.

Host: Can we talk about this business of technology? I would have thought that with your credentials you would have been a wholehearted advocate of the adoption of computer technology, but I expect you are not.

Jonar Nader: Well, as a technologist, I love every bits and bytes. I just love how the thing is put together and what it does. What often happens is that I am ashamed of my colleagues in the industry – industry wide, from all over. When they latch onto a catch phrase and go about making a quick buck out of it. That’s when long time technologists (like me) have to put up with the mess that they create. Meanwhile, they have gone on to open a restaurant from the millions that they made. It is the embarrassing times when you can hear these buzz words, and you think there we go again for the next 3 years it’s rip off time.

Host: You mean hype.

Jonar Nader: Yes hype. But the hype turns into dollars exchanging hands. ‘Let me do this for you’, ‘This is what you need’, ‘This is the be all and end all’. We tend to have a society these days that loves the E R. I don’t mean anything royal by that, but the ‘er’ where fast becomes faster, small becomes smaller, and cheap becomes cheaper. Everytime I read a press release, it could very well have been written 50 years ago or 50 years from now. The other area where I really caution people about adoption the technology is that wisdom is not passed on from generation to generation. Technology is; some learning is. So if you don’t have the wisdom, because we all have to amass it from childhood and start all over again, you end up adopting technology that does not fit society. You have wonderful technologies in their own right, but how do they fit into society? I can give you many examples like that.

Host: Give us an example.

Jonar Nader: Take for example the question ‘When is technology a good technology?’ I would say, ‘When it replaces something that people did not like doing before, or it creates new opportunities.’ Consider water. We used to go to the well to get water, and we used to bring it in a bucket of sorts. Then we had a super highway of water. H2O came down the tap. But now, because of the environment, we once again have to go to the shop and bring water back in bottles. You see things have changed. Now the environment of technology isn’t dirt and atmospheric pollution. It’s law, governments, policies, censorship, all those things changing standards, costs, incompatibilities. What I am saying, as a technologist, is that this is wonderful stuff but when we come and contaminate it with the our way of life, we end up with a technology that doesn’t necessarily work.

Host: Is that caused partly by the fact that technology is developing faster than humans can adapt.

Jonar Nader: No. I think it is a good thing that they are developing fast. It’s just that there are people out there who will look for the quick buck. I think they have always been there and I wonder when they will disappear.

Host: They won’t!

Jonar Nader: So what we can say is that we will continue to evolve from one generation of computing to the next. The speed of adoption is the issue.

Host: But we are told that unless we adopt we will fall so far behind in every facet of our lives. A lot of people think they have to have the computer at home. They have to have the latest software. A good example was when window 95 came out. I mean the hype that surrounded that launch, and the dollars that were made by the makers of that, were just mind boggling!

Jonar Nader: Yes. Often times you wonder if something was first invented because necessity brought it on. I often wonder what is the instigator of an invention? Is it necessity, the mother of invention? Not so in computing. Often times it is the boardroom junkies who are the generators of invention because our competitor has a gizmo, so we want one; hurry up boys invent something. That is one instigator. The other is a need. But oftentimes what happens is that people go out and invent a product, and sell it, and even if you (as a competitor) have a better or the best product, you will not necessarily bring it to market unless you have the marketing skill. So, these days, it is not the best technology that gets to market…

Host: it is the best marketed.

Jonar Nader: Absolutely, and we see that in many things.

Host: Well, as a marketing specialist, you’d adore that. I mean you’d love the fact that it succeeds so well.

Jonar Nader: Well that depends on the definition of marketing. What is marketing? Many people somehow think it has to do with advertising or convincing people they want something. I think marketing’s purpose is to actually engineer the future. So I engineer the future for my company and you engineer the future for your life etc. I am not happy that there are marketeers out there who go about selling through fear and selling through hype. I disagree. I think that marketing people ought to be responsible. All well and good for people to invent a product and market it, but it is the promise you see. I often say that misconception leads to disappointment. I mean if you tell people that this is better, bigger, brighter, the best thing, it will help your education. Notice we have invented diseases that never were. For example, the disease way back when, I don’t know if this is an apocryphal story, but body odour was invented by some companies so they could sell you sprays and shampoos and other things. In this industry, we invented a thing called ‘computer illiteracy’. That is somehow a disease that we have to worry about. There are parents out there worrying that their child does not have a computer as if something will happen to them!

Host: Well exactly, they do and they worry very sincerely about it, and they go and spend thousands of dollars on computers.

Jonar Nader: Yes but they have not embraced technology. They are operating out of fear. I remind those parents that computer technology is a wonderful thing but when the car was invented were any of us immediately taught how the engine works at school as a curriculum? When the piano was invented was there a piano on every desk?

Host: No, but when the car was invented, a lot of people wanted to buy cars and have them. Then when computers were invented, a lot of people wanted to have computers and bought them. But now parents are told that unless their children are computer literate and have a computer at home, they don’t have the competitive edge on their fellows. These being incredibly competitive times at school, parents feel that they are letting their children down unless they can provide one.

Jonar Nader: I think competition starts from within not without.

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