Technology’s Bad Rap?

Part of the considerable fun we have around here at GCI magazine is getting a handle on the latest capabilities in ingredients, packaging, fragrance creation and so much more. The beauty industry thrives on what’s new, and much of what’s new starts with advances in the many technologies that impact—in fact underpin—our industry. We know that technology is the practical application of knowledge and the capability given by that practical application. Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?

Well if it is such a good thing, then why did so many great minds of the past century write so negatively about technology? I looked around for a quote or two to add a little erudition to our technology feature in this issue and really found nothing positive. Frank Lloyd Wright, an architect born in 1867, said, “If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.” That’s surprising commentary from a guy who was around for the invention of the automobile, the phone, television, penicillin, and who missed the first unmanned space flight by only three years. He lived for nearly a century—and what a century of technological achievement it was.

I suppose it pays to remember that many of the famous people weighing in on the subject over the course of the past century were doing so in times of great social upheaval and change. But that time span—that great century of change, where each advancement seemed to enable another of even greater magnitude—spawned the computer and the digital age in which we live. Life in this era is not without its concerns, but so much good has come from it.

One new technology that gets an airing in our feature is a cell phone application that allows a cosmetics customer to check a foundation shade against a photograph of herself before she buys it and takes it home. While not on the level of lifesaving medical technology, it does have the potential to improve one aspect of life.

Max Frisch, a Swiss architect, playwright and novelist, said, “Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it.” Hogwash! If a technology exists to help a woman choose the right shade of foundation on the first try, should she be denied that opportunity? Or should we stand by watching as she endures the frustration of trying color after color at considerable expense just for the life experience when we know other options exist?

We’re lucky to work in an industry that pushes the envelope every day in pursuit of improvements—okay, and maybe simply some bells and whistles—to products that brighten, soften, color and fragrance our everyday lives. These changes come about in an atmosphere of commitment to science, concern for people and the environment, and a model for self regulation. Technologies can also improve business results and that’s a priority for everyone.

Bill Gates, a modern titan of technology, said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” That’s good advice going forward.

Enjoy the issue. And be sure to check out all the great new additions to our Web site,, where industry news about the latest technologies and so much more is updated every business day.

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