Peter points me to this excellent slide presentation, now 10 years old, by the late Rich Gold. He asked a bunch of great questions--some real, many clearly hyperbolic--that try to understand the boundary between technology as a means to an end and technology as the end itself (or at least that's how I read it). For example:
How smart does the bed in your house have to be before you are afraid to go to sleep at night? Which is smarter: awnings over the windows to keep out the sun or a massive interactive, cybernetic cooling system that attempts to keep the temperature of the house within one degree of optimal?
Some are precient of what would happen just a couple of years after he wrote the slides:
If it turned out that you would get 25% discount on the price of your home if instead of paintings, you had to place advertisements on the wall, would you do it?
In the end, his questions are about technologically mediated experiences versus real experiences, design for people versus design for design's sake, personal responsibility versus responsibility delegated to machines. It's a great palette cleanser after consuming so much technology-as-panacea thinking. And though it stands the test of time, I'm not sure if the 10 years have answered any of the questions, or ever will, yet the world has really changed, probably for the better, because of technology.