Retooling Technology

CNN has been airing a documentary about North Korea. As the hour-long program shows, dissidents are smuggling in digital cameras and recording the public executions of political activists, as well as glimpses of the country’s famine and poverty. They are also using cell phones, which only work near the Chinese border, to speak with outside reporters. They are defying the isolationism imposed by Kim Jong Il’s regime.

With new technological wonders every month, it is easy to get caught up in Apple’s newest iPod or Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 or the next Motorola RAZR. These fun gadgets, which I myself have been known to tout, make life easier and more enjoyable. It is more difficult to remember transformative technologies that do more than provide entertainment–they change lives.

All technologies are tools. The CNN documentary was a powerful reminder of what those tools can accomplish.