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Is Progress in Technology Always Beneficial?

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Message Stephen Unger

We enjoy many other benefits of modern technology. The low-cost dissemination of educational and recreational material in printed form is made possible by various devices including modern printing presses and copy machines. The internet facilitates easy access to information of all kinds, opportunities to exchange ideas with, and to debate with, other people, and even to organize around political issues.

The need for drudgery, such as washing clothes and dishes, and pick-and-shovel work, has been substantially reduced by the use of machinery. Food preparation is eased via such means as refrigerators, gas stoves, and microwave ovens. Communicating with friends and relatives living far away is easy via telephone and the internet.

Some obviously detrimental technologies

Unfortunately, there are some technologies that are inherently harmful. Machine guns made modern warfare more deadly, starting with WWI. Later, conventional bombers carrying high explosives, incendiary bombs, and, finally, the first, primitive, atomic bombs, caused the deaths of more civilians than soldiers. Thermonuclear bombs and the means for delivering them (rockets, etc.) threaten entire populations.

While weapons are explicitly designed to have the capability to kill or maim, there are other applications of technology that are intended for benign use, but which have well-known major harmful side effects. A prime example is the automobile. Although much has been done to reduce substantially the frequency and severity of auto accidents in the US, there are still well over 30,000 annual auto-accident deaths. Globally, autos kill about 1.2 million people annually, and are the leading cause of death of people between the ages 10 and 24. Approximately 260,000 children die in car accidents annually, according to the World Health Organization [1].

Opium and then cocaine were pioneer addictive drugs, produced by relatively simple means from easily grown plants. Modern technology has facilitated their production, and added new synthetic addictive products such as crystal meth (crystal methamphetamine). Drug addiction has ruined millions of lives. Meaningful statistics are difficult to find, and it is not easy to estimate the number of deaths caused directly or indirectly by illicit drugs, or even the number of addicts.

Handle with care

There are some technologies that, when properly managed, can be beneficial, but that have the potential to do a great deal of harm.

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Stephen Unger Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am an engineer. My degrees are in electrical engineering and my work has been in the digital systems area, mainly digital logic, but also computer organization, software and theory. I am a Professor, Emeritus, Computer Science and Electrical (more...)
 

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