Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Technology: Friend or Foe?

In a world that has 'shrunken' in considerable size through the advent of technology, it is sometimes difficult to step back and see how this explosion of technology has impacted our society. Technologies are nothing new to the human race. For thousands of years we have been developing various technologies to make our own lives easier; even some animals have evolved enough to start using make-shift technologies in their day to day lives. It is important to note that when I use the term technology it does not simply refer to the computer and internet age we currently live in, although that will be the focus of my entry today.

Throughout history, humanity has developed a long line of technology that has made his life safer, more secure and most importantly, easier. Fire (yeah I know it's not an invention), the wheel, irrigation, husbandry...they are all early technologies of humanity that were developed by humans to help secure their existence. For thousands of years our technologies directly reflected our evolution as a collective species; that is it did up until the 20th century.

At the turn of the 20th century, Humanity began with the same technological and cultural growths. That is to say they were parallel with one another. Our technology was no more advanced than our culture was capable of understanding the new and developing technologies. There was a symbiotic and connected development between our civilization and the technologies discovered and created to evolve that civilization.

Sometime shortly into the 20th century, something happened to civilization that had never happened before. Through an influx of world population, through better education or simply by chance, our research and development of technology shot well past our development as individuals who are members of a collective culture. With two major world wars occurring during the first half of the 20th century, we saw a mad rush for technological development that spurred this unbridled discovery and invention of technologies.

Following those two wars we jumped right into the Cold War and the Space Race. These two decades-long feuds coupled with the momentum of invention from the first half of the 20th century caused an even more accelerated growth in technology. By the end of the Cold War in 1989 we had developed silicone chips, home computers, cellular phones, space shuttles, the automobile, a plethora of medical treatments, the internet and the list goes on and on. We put people on the Moon. The Moon!! 

As we ushered in the 90s, technology did not slow down but rather began to expand exponentially with the introduction of the affordable home computer. By the time the decade was out home computers were in almost every home in North America and in most countries (though not as widespread within).

In the last ten years we have continued to see technology grow at an ever increasing rate. So much so that there is a mathematical formula (Moore's Law) that predicts the growth of computer technology. Inside this past decade we have seen the rise of social media which has permitted humanity to interact with itself on a scale never before possible. The transfer of information has increased 1000 fold if not more in the last 110 years. Print is becoming a thing of the past as computers, tablets and cell phones now become the norm.

So what is the problem you might ask? Well, in case you missed it while reading I will re-itterate: technology and culture (society) once grew proportional to one another. This permitted humanity to adjust as a collective, and as individuals, to this new found technology. What has happened in the last 110 years is that technology growth has outdistanced social and cultural growth. We don't know how to properly deal with or use our technology. Think about it like this: our cultural/societal growth is about the age of a 15 year old whereas our technology just celebrated its 30th birthday (yes I fully believe we are that far behind our technology; perhaps further).

As a conscious race of creatures, in the grand scheme of things, our world/society/culture is still in the very infancy stages of development (15 years old earlier was generous, I would say a little younger like maybe 12-13 just entering puberty). There is absolutely nothing wrong with technology, don't think I am against it because I am not. Where there is something wrong is our ability as individuals and as a collective to properly incorporate these technologies into our world.

Society cannot exist when those who exist within it are playing with things they do not fully understand. As an example (just an example) we will look at cell phones. They are a marvel of communications technology. At any time, almost any where one can simply take out a phone and access the internet or make a phone call (or text as it is most days). How incredible is that? Just amazing. So what's the problem? Well for starters it has, especially with the Millennials, started to cause our socialization skills to regress instead of evolve. We communicate less and less directly with one another and as a necessary result, we stray further and further away from one another and the emotional and physical bonds required for proper human development. We have arrived at a point where more often people will use a cell phone to text before calling or talking directly to them. This is very detrimental to not only personal growth, but growth as a collective. And this is just talking about one impact. There are others such as the fact that not enough research was done and we now know that cellular phones actually DO cause cancer or the fact that the English language is being bastardized through text talk

So to finish this out I would just like to remind everyone that technology is a wonderful and marvelous thing. It can allow for the increase in our safety and security but at the same time if we are not careful it will be our inevitable downfall. It may sound peculiar but technology is outgrowing us so quickly now that it may soon be too late to stop what is happening: the decline of society through the advancement of technology. As a people, we need to take a moment to stop and breath in the technologies and understand them fully before ushering them out into the market for profit. There will come a point where we must stop and allow ourselves to catch up to our technology or face the danger of having it ultimately being the cause of our own extinction. Enjoy your technologies; use them wisely and with caution but be sure to give them a break once in a while to enjoy the Universe, the Earth and all those you share it with. Do not lose the human of your Humanity.