Why, as a tech editor, I don’t really trust technology

Why don't I trust technology?

Why don’t I trust technology?

Update, September 5, 2023, 11:30 a.m.: We wanted to know from you in a survey: Do you actually still print out tickets for trains, hotels or concerts? Or is it digital for you?

The results are mixed. 42 percent of you do without paper and trust technology. This compares to 31 percent who prefer to have something in their hand, and 27 percent said that they do it this way and that way.

Apparently I’m not alone in my skepticism, but the camps don’t agree. Will one group predominate at some point?

Tomorrow I’m going to the IFA in Berlin with my colleague Alana. The journey with the ICE from Nuremberg only takes three and a half hours (if the DB wants it). I booked the ticket online, selected my seats digitally and paid cashless.

Then why the hell am I printing out the train ticket?

I prefer to fight with the printer instead of having the ticket displayed on my cell phone.

How come?

Where does the distrust come from?

It is generally known that we Germans have a healthy mistrust of technology and new technologies – and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that. But there are also opposing voices: Deutschlandfunk, for example, even describes fear of technology as a legend.

We now do almost everything with our cell phone or smartwatch, from shopping to paying. So why don’t I use the computer in my bag for my train ticket?

Because of irrational reasons that I’m sure you know too.

The friendly conductor isn't going to throw me off the train, is she?  OR?  (Image: AboutLife - adobe.stock.com)

The friendly conductor isn’t going to throw me off the train, is she? OR? (Image: AboutLife – adobe.stock.com)

What if the conductor can’t read the code? Then he wouldn’t be able to do that with a printed ticket, but it feels safer because you can rule out being the cause of the problem – after all, you have the ticket in your hand.

What if I don’t have anything in my hand? Sometimes conductors punch holes in the paper ticket. Physical proof that you can sit on the train. That creates security. With the ticket on my phone, I have nothing in my hand (metaphorically speaking).

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What if the battery runs out? Hand on heart: When has the battery ever run out when we urgently needed our cell phone? That only happens in movies.

Would you like another example? Money. Only cash is real, right? No, not really, because we’ve been paying with debit or credit cards for ages. And yet I always wanted to have cash in my wallet. You could use it sometimes. As a tip. Or if the battery of the EC device runs out. Or if you can only pay in cash. Or… just because.

Luckily, I taught myself better:

Is technology skepticism culturally determined?

The term exists in English usage German Angst. In an article from the editorial network Germany, the book author Sabine Bode defines the term as follows:

By German Angst we mean a mixture of discouragement and hesitation, coupled with fear of the future and an extreme need for security.

Sabine Bode, author of the book Traces of war. The German Disease German Fear

In comparison, the Germans are also considered dissatisfied with technology. One could argue that this is culturally determined.

Historical background

Germany has a complex history marked by political manipulation, surveillance and oppression, particularly during the Nazi and GDR eras. These experiences could lead to increased distrust, particularly around surveillance and control.

Data protection and privacy

These are the aftermath of surveillance and control. We attach great importance to protecting our own privacy, which is why Germany has strict data protection laws.

Revelations about mass surveillance in other countries support this view.

Job loss

Germans are considered hard-working and place a lot of value on their jobs. Automation and digitalization can lead to job losses, especially in certain industries.

This leads to many people resisting new technology that could endanger their own jobs, as is currently the case with AI. But experts also see this as an opportunity.


Some people feel robbed of their responsibility when an app or smart drinking bottle reminds them to drink. The more dependent you become on technology, the less influence you have.

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But there are also opposing voices that claim that the fear of technology is irrational, as the SZ headlined in a commentary from 2017. An article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine takes the same line.

There’s only one thing that helps: put yourself to the test

Mistrust is justified, but not always, as in the case of the train ticket to the IFA. What is supposed to happen? The conductor will not throw me out of the moving train and the police will not take me into custody at the next train station.

In this case, the concerns are unfounded. Therefore, I will consciously leave the paper ticket at home and use my cell phone. If it works, it will take away the worries for the next few times.

For a long time I resisted smartwatches (or wristwatches in general). But not only did I start the experiment myself, my Apple Watch also finally made me leave my wallet behind (I’ve linked the experience report above).

Image: photoschmidt - adobe.stock.com

Image: photoschmidt – adobe.stock.com

This in turn led me to use the Nuremberg transport company’s Egon app. This not only saves me money, I also no longer have to take a ticket and I do something for the environment.

And finally, all of this led me to do my weekly shopping online every now and then. The advantages are obvious, but the biggest one is definitely that I have more time.

Ergo: My mistrust of technology cost me money and time. However, sometimes it helps to just jump over your shadow. All the horror scenarios you imagine usually don’t come to pass, and if they do, you’re usually smart enough to solve them.

Fear hinders us, technology means progress. It’s good to be skeptical, but not at any price. Nowadays we don’t unfold maps anymore, we just ask our map apps for directions, right?

Do you actually still print out your tickets?

I would like to know if I’m the only one doing this. It’s not necessarily about train tickets, but also entrance tickets, hotel confirmations and so on.

The Germans are considered grumpy when it comes to new technology and even though I’m a tech editor, I don’t exempt myself from that. However, I would like to be more open and therefore do without the printed train ticket. Have you ever had an aha moment about technology? Are you an early adopter or do you prefer to monitor the situation? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

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