USA's interstate highway system (Dwight Eisenhower)
Society finds its own uses for things, and seldom will it obey the dictates of an inventor. The use must necessarily emerge. In fact, I'm going to go a bit further and claim that this is exactly as it must be. Inventors sometimes push bad tech. into use. Society as a whole has to filter dangerous technologies. That means it sometimes puts the brakes on new technologies until they're proven somewhat safe and effective. P2P is still in that stage, as is the Segeway, and genetically modified foods. At best, inventors can enable new things to do. It's up to everyone else to do them, if they so choose.
The browser I'm using (OperaBrowser) just destroyed an entire window, containing a dozen open web pages, because of an unlucky keystroke. There goes the next hour of my time trying to retrieve it, never mind my detailed response. Oh guess not, I haven't any way to recover what it destroyed, nor any way to even know what got destroyed. This browser is exactly what you're unknowingly defending.You see, when you're talking about emergent usage patterns, you're not talking about a conscious societal decision, one which has been discussed and deliberated by society, a decision that would allow for the control of technology by society. No, what you're talking about is a set of unthinking knee-jerk reaction which lead to society being controlled BY technology.What do you think your life expectancy would be if you never made a single conscious decision in your life? If you never reflected, deliberated or questioned anything? If you just let things evolve to fit their environment without having any target goal in mind and thus no way to measure whether a change was progress or regress? Because that's what you're defending.You're defending evolution, not engineering.The whole thing about inventors versus society is completely besides the point, and is completely orthogonal to the issue at hand. The issue at hand is conscious versus unconscious, deliberate versus "emergent".And let me reassure you that conscious and deliberate are good while unconscious and emergent are evil.Letting usage patterns emerge only leads to chaos and destruction. This is exactly what happened in the USA with its fetish for laissez-faire of technology. Instead of society controlling technology to its own benefit, accelerating the adoption of certain technologies and decelerating others, what happened instead is that the owners of the technology (large corporations) ended up controlling society. AlvinToffler? deals with the negative consequences of this runaway process for democracy in the last chapters of FutureShock.
"Society controllling technology" is complete non-sense. Society votes with its feet. Incompetent bureaucrats pretend to take decisions for the good of "society". The more they control, the greater the chance they can make errors and the worse society is. With tis fetish for laissez faire technology US generates more than half technological innovations worldwide. -- CostinCozianu (anti-communist, anti-socialist extraordinaire)
Grand visions versus emergent processes matters because you simply don't get the same usage patterns, the same decisions, from conscious and unconscious processes. Grand visions are always more elegant, more consistent, more timely and more controllable. Emergent processes lead to more fluid, more adaptable stuff. But also far less elegant, efficient or comprehensible. And in their own ways, far more and far less adaptable.