Can Technology Make The World A Better Place?
Technology… why does it make us so good and yet so bad? If only we could build something to fix that.
Technology almost feels like a dirty word these days. We sailed in on the sleek back of the Digital Revolution and the connecting flight to the future feels like you’re on the next plane to Doomsday.
There’s public beheadings, global war and Economic Hell as you channel-hop, and the whole thing feels a little like you were sold a dream of the Bahamas… and instead you’re headed straight to Beirut. Hey, at least there’s peanuts.
What happened? We were promised so much.
Endless progress, inspirational discoveries and infinitely expanding knowledge… but technology as an inherent force for good appears less convincing in an age when you can post worldwide virals of your unsuspecting ex-girlfriend naked, just for breaking up with you. There’s so much to hate about technology in general, anyway. There’s the rudeness of smartphone audio capabilities. These are always delightful on a crowded bus, especially when sported by an youth with a penchant for disturbingly vicious rap lyrics. There’s the completely pointless Facebook status. No one cares that you’re having your tea. Oh yes, and last but not least, let’s not forget the never-ending online presence of cats. Cats doing funny things. LOL (sigh).
It’s not like the world wasn’t a terrible place before the Web. People killed and were killed in vast, unimaginable numbers. Cruelty and social inequality have always abounded, as have war and famine. Yet as technology grows, the potential to inflict pain and suffering also increases; as does our observance of this in minute detail. Sometimes it’s good to shut down the Mac and turn off Twitter, just for your own sanity.
Technology is just another way to reveal who we are. And that can be something rather splendid if we try.
Yet none of this is technology’s fault, exactly. Having spent the last few paragraphs attacking it, you might find this statement surprising (and a bit annoying). Hear me out. Technology didn’t cause us to be more vindictive, self-involved or impolite. It simply exacerbates our ability to do so successfully. For every idiot raking muck or hating the world, there is an innovative visionary or dedicated community organisation spreading the love.
Scientific research, digital tools, social media platforms and cutting edge developments in every sector of health and medicine are all part of the same technological spectrum as the trading of weapons. Cancer is being battled, artificial limbs are being attached and social campaigns are multiplying globally like never before. Energy is being harnessed and Skype is allowing loved ones, kept millions of miles apart, to talk for hours into the night. We have peered into Outer Space and the bottom of the black ocean. We can’t conquer death, but technology affords us increasingly diverse ways in which we can make the lives we do have richer and more fulfilled.
Technology can and does make the world a better place, despite all its hazards. It is the human natures interfacing with technology which make it so powerful and so dangerous. As technological boundaries liquidise into global networks and our social lines become ever more blurred, human natures with be increasingly thrown together in the dynamics of a world-wide melting-pot. It will certainly be interesting to see the role technology plays, for better or worse, in the years to come.
Ah, that old classic…