Our conflicting views on whether technology is a boon or bane can be best described by inventor and best selling author Daniel H Wilson, when he
says, “We humans have a love-hate relationship with our technology. We love each new advance and we hate how fast our world is changing”. The use of technology is what distinguishes us from other animals and this has been evident throughout history. For our evolution has been deeply linked with the evolution of technology. From discovering the technological potential of fire more than 250,000 years ago to developing watermills as a source of power in the medieval ages, technology today is so futuristic as would have been unimaginable just a few decades back.
The industrial age’s greatest aspect was technology. New innovations and devices made life easier. Machines that seem mundane today like the levers, pulleys, wheel and axles, screws and wedges helped usher in an age of productivity. The industrial revolution was to an extent a worldwide phenomenon and this saw technology bringing in progress to the world as a whole. Steam engines, electricity, petroleum and other technological advancements had repercussions throughout society. Coal industry, textile industry, locomotive industry, chemical industry etc brought the world closer. Another important technological advancement was in the field of medicine. Advances in areas of anatomy and physiology enhanced life expectancy and reduced illnesses. By the end of 19th century, the importance of technology had been firmly established and it was clear that dependence on it would only grow.
The 20th century saw a range of technologies that evoked both awe and fear in humankind. The airplane, rockets, electronics, antibiotics, and nuclear power managed to create a social situation that offered security but always had danger looming in the fringes. The use and abuse of natural resources brought about rapid growth and prosperity to countries but with such terrible side effects as pollution and depletion of resources.
And as we go into the 21st century, technology has reached a whole different level. Communication as we knew it, has changed and has turned passive and more indirect. Pagers, desktop computers and telephones have now been replaced with laptops, tablets and smartphones. People would rather message each other on various platforms rather than talk face to face. In fact, there are almost as many cell phone subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people living on this planet (7 billion). By 2014 there were more than 3.8 billion email accounts and this number only keeps growing. Technology today has increased our independence.
Need to know where you get the best cakes in town? Just search on the internet. Don’t know how to get to the new mall? Let your GPS take you. Even when it comes to medical care, we have become more self-reliant. The need for doctors to assess our primary health conditions has reduced dramatically with the availability of blood pressure and diabetes monitors. The greatest advantage is the creation of a boundary-less communication channel. Irrespective of your nationality, sex, race or religion, you can communicate with like-minded people from across the world.
But as the old adage goes, too much of anything is not good. And this holds true for technology too. Increased use of cell phones and microwave ovens have been linked to diseases caused due to radiations. An over exposure to the virtual world has created a warped sense of reality for many.
We have become so attuned to communicating via social media that any face to face communication seems awkward. Technology today does not require us to leave our house. One can work from home, shop from home and receive medical care at home. This has led to isolation, a lack of social skills and an inability to conduct ourselves in public. Technology can also be credited to the creation of a great number of couch potatoes. Video games, YouTube, and social media are robbing us of our exercise time. Depression, stress and poor sleep habits are increasingly becoming common medical occurrences.
And of course, there is the question of privacy and security. With our entire life being online, our lives are being constantly snooped on. Your entire life history can be accessed by any stranger with a few entries on a website. Phishing, viruses, and hacking are the new forms of robbery which not only result in huge losses but also keep the perpetrator anonymous. Addiction, lack of empathy, more violence, development issues in children, lack of attention and many more issues have been associated with technology.
But can we ignore the advantages that technology has offered and go back to the basics. Can we once again live like people did in the stone ages? That thought seems more far-fetched than anything else. The bottom line is—you cannot escape technology. So how you use it and how much you allow it to pervade your life is entirely in your hands. Whether you love it or hate it, technology is here to stay!