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Digital systems can be found in all sorts of unlikely, and arguably sometimes unnecessary, places that we increasingly depend on in modern life. Unlike most changes in technology where take-up follows a similar pathway from early adoption to market dominance, the digital revolution is more subtle. The distance between the operator or user and the ‘machine’ she controls becomes invaded by digital systems which have the seductive power to lull a sense of security whilst being an incomprehensible black box.
Using the modern merchant ship as the basis, the talk will consider the pathway towards adoption of new technology, the development of automation and the resulting impact on usability. When did we become dependent on digital systems without a manual work around? How should this sort of development be recorded for historical purposes to inform future generations? The speed of change is extraordinary, and the drivers for adoption are not always clear.