Douglas Adams’ Technology Rules

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.

Douglas AdamsThis is a fantastic quote from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the answer to life, the universe and everything. This specific quote appears in another book, The Salmon of Doubt, which was published after his death and is based on multiple articles by him on the subject of technology.

While you might not think of Adams as a technologist, he has a fair amount of street cred. According to various sources:

  • Adams used e-mail extensively long before it reached popular awareness
  • He started using a word processor in 1982
  • Adams created his own USENET newsgroup ( in 1983
  • In 1984 he was the first person to buy a Macintosh in Europe

The Salmon of Doubt also includes an essay called ‘How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet’ which first appeared in the News Review section of The Sunday Times in August 1999. In the essay Adams suggests a set of rules which describe our relationship to technology:

  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.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

Take social media, for example. Social media is about a decade old and, based on the above generalization, would be less prevalent with those who are 45 and older. That seems about right to me – what do you think?

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2 Responses to Douglas Adams’ Technology Rules

  1. Cathy Cooper July 1, 2014 at 8:10 am #

    I do love Douglas Adams — and great quote. But just because that is the general trend doesn’t mean it holds for everyone of that age — particularly #3. What it does mean is that we need multiple generations to work together for the best results.


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