Saturday, February 9, 2013

Technology Friend or Foe

I 've always looked at Technology as an advancement, as a 'good' thing, but now I am not so sure.   Have we as a society, as humans actually gained anything by technology?  Or has it caused us to become dependant, has it dulled our senses, our compassion, our creativity, our ingenuity?
I suppose the truth is, it is how we decide to use it, but are we disciplined enough to use what we have and are we advanced enough intellectually to see the future implications of it's use and application?  Again, I don't know.

Humanity, throughout history has been chaotic, but if we look at our history we can see a natural progression of advancement, for example.   Human needs food, 'invents' spear, Human needs to cook food, discovers fire, and so on... it is a necessity that drives Humanity towards progression and invention.

The light bulb, the automobile, all of these things were invented to aid us, to help us get to where we needed to go, but at some point, we decided we could create technology to do the things other humans could do, so that we can save money and be more 'efficient' ... but has it worked?

I don't know, I think it's possible modern technology has actually reversed human evolution.

Why do I think this?

We no longer invent things to aid us, but rather to replace us.  We want to save time, so rather than spending a day washing clothes, we invent the washing machine.  Instead of cooking when we come home from work, we throw something in the microwave.  Instead of sitting down and writing a letter, we send an email, or text.   All of these advances seem great, and make sense and also save us time, so what's the problem?   If we have saved ourselves so much time, why then is it, we so often say we have no time?  Or we are too busy?  What happens to all that time these machines saved us?
The answer I think is about fulfillment.  While these things, do save us time, we also lose something very important. For example, when I was kid I used to have a pen pal, I barely remember the details now, but I remember waiting for a response to come, via snail mail, and when the letter arrived in the mail how much joy I felt.  That joy no longer is there, I send an email and get a response in minutes, and I take it for granted.   
Do I think we will ever go back to those days of writing personal letters by pen?  Doubtful, should we?  My logic says no, but my heart says yes.  

So using that example, what is the cost vs gain?  We gain time, but we lose our writing technique, and the joy that used to come from receiving a personal letter.   Seems trivial I know... so let's move onto another example.

Computers and the Internet.   We invent computers to handle processes normally handled by humans, to save time and cost, we use them to run factories which are almost entirely automated, which used to be handled by humans.  We also use personal computers to access the Internet, so we can search information in minutes that it used to take us weeks to find, by using books and other means.  

Again, this is a good thing right?  Again, I say yes... and no.

What of the cost?  We build computers to replace human thought, we build them to replace our workers, we build them to replace books, and again by doing all this we gain time, but lose fulfillment.   So what do we do with all this extra time?  Also, what do we do with all of those humans we just put out of work?

Here is another example, that is very close to my own heart and one I deal with daily.
Creative Tools.  During my time in high school I was also taking a home-study course in film photography, and learning all about composition and lighting and different types of film.  When I started working, using these tools, it was about skill, it took great skill and knowledge in fact to be able to take a good photograph, not to mention a great one.   When I got the film back from the developer it was such a great feeling seeing those images.   Digital comes along, and removes all of that.  Now we see our images the second we take them, and if there are flaws, we can remove them in Photoshop or hell, we can put a different sky in the background, why not add a building or person that wasn't there either.  Again, these tools are amazing, and I cannot imagine my life without them now, except once again the cost.    
Sure on one hand it allows everyone to be able to express themselves and 'create' great images, and that is a good thing, but it also makes it unnecessary to understand photography, we lose the art, the craft.   Now, they are inventing cameras which no longer require a photographer at all... so once again Technology removes the human component.

So to sum up this post, I am conflicted....

On one hand technology is a wonderful tool, to aid us, to inspire us and to give us more time to do the things we love, my worry is that we are losing the things we love through technology.   We have more time now than at any point in history, yet everyone complains of not having enough time.   We have more opportunities to help others and to use the internet for good, but how many actually do?   Do we use these tools or do we depend on them for our happiness?  How often does it drive us nuts when do something online and no one reacts to it?  We start a blog and no one follows it, or we create a Facebook page and no one comments, or we need to text a hundred 'friends' so we feel popular?  Are we in control of technology, or is it ever so slowly invading our humanity and controlling us?

Something to think about....