The Unanticipated Uses of Technology

From a Paris Review interview with writer William Gibson:

The strongest impacts of an emergent technology are always unanticipated. You can’t know what people are going to do until they get their hands on it and start using it on a daily basis, using it to make a buck and u­sing it for criminal purposes and all the different things that people do. The people who invented pagers, for instance, never imagined that they would change the shape of urban drug dealing all over the world. But pagers so completely changed drug dealing that they ultimately resulted in pay phones being removed from cities as part of a strategy to prevent them from becoming illicit drug markets. We’re increasingly aware that our society is driven by these unpredictable uses we find for the products of our imagination.

via Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 211, William Gibson.


  1. secret asian man says:

    One may as well say this is the unanticipated use of any human innovation, technological or otherwise. The ways by which people seize upon and utilize new legislation in ways not intended by the author are exactly the same.

  2. Are pagers and the unintended consequence of using them for drug dealing the only reason why pay phones were removed en masse? It has nothing to do with the advent of mobile phone technology? Where's the data to make the case that it was mostly due to pagers and drug dealing?


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