Technology, Infrastructure, and Government

Posted on April 2, 2010 by


In this increasingly urbanized, globalized, monetized world, we depend on infrastructures and technologies everyday to do what we have to do (or at least think we have to do).

Technology is infrastructure.  Infrastructure is technology.

Infrastructure is any structure that connects people to things.  Infrastructure is not just roads, bridges, or even just telecommunications.  Infrastructure can also be a collection of people designed to carry out a specific task.  That collection of people is a form of technology.

Anything that is a part of government is infrastructure.  Government departments from federal to local help connect people to things.  A Human Services department connects people to counselors.  An office of education manages the schools.  If these government departments are pieces of infrastructure, by extension they are also forms of technology.

Government departments are forms of technology.

Some technologies or government departments are more prioritized by others because upon first glance they have wider application.  The technologies we value the most includes those that support fighting other nations,  and paying off money we borrow.  These are seen as essential government functions, because in theory everyone uses them.

At the other end of the spectrum, some technologies are less prioritized by others because they are seen as specific and social with less application.  That would be stuff like public education, and government human services.  Some see this as “nonessential government” because not everyone uses them.

Being the food-grubbin’, obese nation that we are, we also use the metaphor of  “fatness” or “excess” to refer to those “nonessential” functions.

However what often isn’t taken into account is that public education and government human services are actually pieces of technology that we’ve developed to help connect people to what they need.

What some people don’t realize is that some pieces of technology are simply there to keep other parts in place, and not necessarily applicable to everyone.

Perhaps a metaphor that would help people understand the need for human services, yet slightly separatist, is that of investing in levees to protect against floods.  Definitely not a perfect metaphor or one that I’ve completely thought out, but a makeshift metaphor.  Investing in government human services i’s a technology to keep things at bay.  You don’t want a widespread flood of homeless folk wandering around desperately looking to snatch your wallet.  You don’t want them dragging down the perception of safety of your public spaces.

But instead we seem to be caught up in the technology that fights others and takes others natural resources.