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The Salmon of Dubious Technology

   January 3rd, 2012

The Salmon of Doubt, by Douglas Noel AdamsOn my drive to Ohio for Christmas, one of the audiobooks I listened to was Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt. In addition to sort of being one of his stories, this book also contains numerous interviews he'd done and various bits and ideas of things he'd saved in his computers.

The following little bit came on somewhere in the middle of New York state, and I kept thinking about it for miles:

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Douglas was very good about drawing attention to, or even giving names to, things that happened or were true without people really consciously knowing they were, in fact, actual real things. I think that is definitely the case with the above approach to technology.

It also made me laugh to think this might be applied to libraries - and librarians - with a few minor changes:

  1. Anything that is in the library when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the library works.
  2. Anything that’s developed while you're in library school is new and exciting and revolutionary and is definitely the future for libraries.
  3. Anything developed after you’ve worked as a librarian for awhile is against the natural order of things.

Obviously this is tongue-in-cheek, but I liked it because I definitely find myself being more skeptical of the application of innovations than I was just a few years ago. Although maybe that's because I'm still working on implementing some of the projects I started a few years ago.

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4 Responses to “The Salmon of Dubious Technology”

  1. Rosemary Says:

    I find myself struggling with this occasionally. When we added video games to the collection I had to remind myself how excited I was when I was a teenager and the library started purchasing CDROMs. I’m still not convinced video games are a good idea, but at least I can see the reasoning. 😀

  2. maria Says:

    I love this observation! I most definitely find there are many on staff that feel the newest technological advances are “against the natural order of things.” Meanwhile, my two and 1/2 year old granddaughter can operate any of the 90 apps on my iPad.

  3. J Barlow Says:

    This is true, and makes me think of a carton by the Spanish political cartoonist El Roto, which can be seen here:


    Order: What there is
    Disorder: Any modification on the former

  4. madeline kelly Says:

    If you are over 35 but have kids (a not untypical boomer parenting situation) the rubric doesn’t necessarily hold as you see the “new technology” through their eyes.