2013 / 2月
Teng Sue-feng /tr. by Scott Williams
In January 2013, the US’s venerable Newsweek magazine switched to an all-digital format after 79 years in print.
Given technology’s profound impact on print media, Newsweek’s decision wasn’t entirely unexpected. The magazine commemorated the end of the print era by placing a black-and-white photo of its former offices on the cover of its final print edition.
Another recent news story was a bit more surprising.
Jack Ma, founder and CEO of mainland Chinese online business platform Alibaba, announced his plans to step down from his position at the company: “At 48 years of age, I’m no longer young enough for the Internet industry. Alibaba’s younger generation is in a better position than we are to run an online ecosystem.... We are turning over leadership of the company to colleagues born in the 1970s and 1980s because they have a better grasp of the future....”
After years at the forefront of the rapidly changing tech industry, the 48-year-old Ma feels he can no longer keep up the pace and will pass the baton to the younger generation.
Technology is having an enormous impact on everything from individual businesses to people’s careers. Cellphones make an interesting case in point. A few years ago, we used them exclusively for calls and text messages. Nowadays, we use smartphones not just to stay in touch, but also for news and entertainment. They’ve become almost a basic necessity, albeit one with which we have a love-hate relationship.
Technology is, in and of itself, neither good nor bad. So why then has the growing ubiquity of smartphones and tablets given rise to so many problems? People who forget to bring their cellphone to work with them spend their entire day feeling lost in spite of the other phones in the office. They get together with family or friends, or go on a date, and have their eyes glued to their phones for the duration of the occasion. They agonize over whether to buy a smartphone for their middle-school-aged children, and whether to accept a Facebook friend request from someone they barely know. These devices have insinuated themselves into virtually every corner of our lives, even into our relationships with our children and our social interactions.
This month’s cover story, on life in the “cloud,” details the paradox of people’s technological isolation and their yearning for connectedness, and examines the anxieties to which technological change is giving rise.
Individuals have a choice with regard to technology. It’s up to them whether they embrace it or keep their distance. Government, on the other hand, cannot ignore cloud technology’s earth-shattering potential, but must put it to use ensuring that the public can play, eat, and get on with their lives safely and confidently. To that end, Taiwan’s government is building tourism, food-safety, and medical clouds, and is looking to develop the technology further. Our tourism cloud is particularly useful to foreign visitors, who now can apply on arrival for a free mobile Internet account that will help them travel smart while in Taiwan. The soon-to-be launched education, disaster-relief, and even policing clouds will propel us further into the cloud-technology era.
The Internet belongs to the young, and, as we can see from the new crowdfunding platforms young entrepreneurs are building, it is a positive force.
Taiwan Panorama aims to attract young readers by taking the pulse of the times. Through the Internet, we have met young people choosing to set aside dreams of wealth and instead explore their capabilities and potential through working holidays in Japan, Australia, Germany and elsewhere.
Known as a gap year, this kind of break can be very useful. We transition through many stages and encounter many obstacles over the course of our lives. We graduate from university, enter the working world, hit bumps on our career tracks.... A gap year is a means of reinvigorating oneself before setting out anew.