Beyond Bob the Builder

by | May 25, 2019 | ICT4D, Ideas |

“Can we build it?”

“Yes, we can!”

Familiar words to anyone who has watched episodes of Bob the Builder . In every episode there is a moment when Bob and his team of construction machines encounter a challenge for which they need to build something. It is at this point that the above exchange occurs.

In our world where technology is the predominate solution to whatever challenge we have, it often feels like our narrative is not unsimilar to Bob the Builder. The question is rarely ‘should we build it’ but almost always ‘can we build it’, to which the answer from a technology perspective is almost always, ‘yes’.

We are embracing the new without discussing whether or not it is a good idea or not. There appears to be an inherent assumption the new is always good. As Eric Reiss states, “The big question of our time is not Can it be built? but Should it be built?”

The should question is much more difficult to answer, but much more important. And should be asked exponentially more often when anything we are considering building impacts vulnerable people.

1 Comment

  1. Jacek

    I like the comparison and I think the answer is not just a simple “business case” at a moment. When Ford started to build car which became Ford T, he was not asking himself “shell” but “can” question. When JF Kennedy ask his advisors “what we need, to put a man on the Moon”, the answer was not “a business case” but “the will to do it” :).
    What I think is, that there is a difference between doing something new, for the sake of discovery, and doing something… When you do something new, for the sake of discovery, the main question should be “can I do it?”. In all other situations we should ask ourselves “shell I do it?” question… For me it is a difference between visionary’s and administrator’s.
    Both are needed, both are valuable, but usually only the first ones will be remember…


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