As I observe humanity, moving in ever-faster and faster paces, racing to achieve ever more at dizzying speeds even as technology threatens to outpace our very mental capacity, something is amiss. Some deeply held idea that we seem bent on fulfilling, a frantic technologically powered promise, has been broken.
Whether we realize it or not, underneath all this amazing technology we are creating, is a subtle but powerful promise: that we can accomplish more, in less time, and thereby achieve a greater quality of life.
Oh, at first the idea is seductive. Let’s build a machine that can do the work in half the time! We can work in the morning and play in the afternoon. This works great in theory, except it is rarely practiced. No, once that amazing whiz-bang machine is built, it’s run 24/7, working employees to the bone, so we can produce a gazillion times more in a fraction of the time! By all rights there should be a lot more people loafing. Or at least, having a high quality of life. But are they?
How is it that our very lives are powered by machines that admittedly double in speed every 2-years, yet as a nation we are poorer than ever, more tired than ever, and less able to enjoy life as we know it? Who doesn’t walk around with more lines on their foreheads even as the world races by? Whose stress levels are lower thanks to the amazing advances in technology? I don’t know many.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a conspiracy afoot. Yes, really. As a society, our job is to care about each other and improve our quality of life personally and collectively, yet the very technology that has promised to provide this is doing just the opposite. In fact it’s aggregating wealth into fewer and fewer hands, and in a very real sense oppressing the rest, creating a new kind of upper class, a “technorati” if you will, that is able to harness technology to their advantage. And despite all the nifty perks of technology, are our lives really better?
Sure, we can point to increased efficiencies. Information can be transferred faster and in larger quantities than ever before, and computers can crunch numbers in ever-larger chunks.
Yet have we ever stopped to ask, is that always necessarily good? Computers enable people to make mistakes, faster. Think about that for a moment.
And besides simple “business gains,” and increased production, what are the actual tangible gains in human terms? Are employees happier, or are they working just as many hours as in 1960?
And another important measure: do people feel more connected to one another, with all the gizmos for interaction?
Ironically, technology tends to isolate people rather than bring them together. It promotes anonymity, and separation by encouraging us to interface over longer and longer distances, using bits of metal and plastic for the interactions. What happened to the warmth of a handshake? Looking someone in the eye? Something is getting lost in the digital revolution, and it’s in the intangible, and arguably more important, realm of our lives.
What about all the fancy speed of the technology; surely this is making the world more efficient, right?
Can anyone point to studies showing the increased production and sheer extra volume of goods, services, and foods, are actually being circulated to those in need? Is the human family as a whole benefitting from the excess, or is the wealth being concentrated by those in position to take advantage of the windfall?
Again, this answer is obvious; the human family as a whole is not reaping the benefits of the technological advances, as evidenced by similar or worse levels of poverty, literacy, living conditions, and general conditions of peoples throughout the earth. Sure, there are certain segments of the population that are benefitting, yet we see the makings of a “digital divide” in which the middle classes are disappearing, while the ranks of upper and lower classes continue to swell, in large part due to technology which aggregates more and more power into the hands of those at the top. This has always been a classic harbinger of trouble, for those that care to pay attention.
And don’t get me started on our amazing scientific advances in healthcare; what passes for healthcare, rightly should be labelled “sick-care” as it uses 2 main modes of operation: cutting and drugging. The human body does not generally suffer from lack of cuts, or chemicals. Many of the greatest bits of wisdom from thousands of years of human survival are being summarily censored, and even outlawed by those in charge. Don’t believe me? Tsk tsk. Google it. As the saying goes, “just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
Then, perhaps, is the planet better off for all the amazing increased production technology affords? Again, ha! No, the planet is hurting, possibly getting a temperature, and for sure getting filled valley to mountain with more trash than ever before. See http://www.storyofstuff.com/ for an amazing video.
What about the potential of the human brain: surely we are getting smarter and smarter every year, and children are benefiting greatly from exposure to all this marvelous new stuff, right? (See http://www.flixxy.com/technology-and-education-2008.htm).
Well, er, sort of. Actually what I’ve found is that we think differently, not necessarily better, than before. We have greater capacity to multi-task because, surprise, we’re constantly bombarded with the need to process so much at once. But this comes at the expense of the ability to really concentrate. I’m not sure that being “scattered” is better than being “focussed.”
What about social skills? Are computers and technology enhancing these? Evidence indicates that our new silicon taskmasters don’t have hearts, and our capacity for human understanding, compassion, and love are not enhanced to any significant degree by our technology.
I could go on and on. The basic, simple question is, what are the actual real benefits of this technological craze we are in? Are we honestly better off with the technology than before? And what is driving this insane rapid-fire chase, and what is it for? Or have we lost site of the goal we are running towards? If it’s the betterment of mankind, we are off-course.
One can always argue that the technology is not the problem; it’s the biology operating it, and this is a truthful point. Technology is neither good nor bad but in the hands of its users. Truly we can do amazing things with our new gizmos, but will we? Are we? Currently, generally not.
So the jury is out. Thanks to the crazy advances in computers and technology, we can do more than ever, but the results are that we as a species are not better off in tangible ways, en masse.
In short, technology is not making the world, the planet, or people as a whole, better off; in fact many are worse off and we have the makings of a technorati that control the rest; how is this different than those in power making the world better for themselves at any other time in history?
With great power comes great responsibility. ‘Nuff said.