An Ode to Technology: Homo Sapiens' Heritage
A rebuttal to my friend
My friend has taken to herself the task of writing a number of multi-disciplinary essays as part of her professional development as a writer. I must admit that I am truly thrilled for her, and because of it, I have been debating her in an attempt to fuel her arguments and research on the various subjects she is venturing in. Last night she mentioned that her latest essay would be focusing on Technology. Knowing her, she will probably list a myriad of well written arguments on how technology is making us less humans, and driving us away from each other in a metropolis of cold, artificial metal.
Let us briefly explore why this isn't necessarily the case. Let's step into an imaginary time machine and journey a little back through time. We are now in the year 1918, when a phenomenon had started to emerge and change the face of towns and cities in industrialized countries; the main streets went from a gathering place for people, horses and wagons to a parking place for the ubiquitous Automobile. Living in this timeframe, with your eyes set exclusively on the present, you can imagine how easy it must have been for many people to perceive the negative impact of such a technological contraption. Namely, the streets were now a dangerous, off-limits part of town and nevermore the colorful place to gather, walk and socialize that they once were.
Granted, an invention like the Automobile had then (and continues to have) an exponential growing rate of dangers and unfavorable effects on society; such as accidents resulting in injuries, death, and air pollution. Does this mean that the flaws outweigh the benefits of its invention? - Far from it. The automobile to say the least, re-shaped society and economy, it allowed for the growth of cities and the creation of suburbs. Now people were able to travel far distances to visit families abroad during the weekends, find a job, or be able to study away from the vicinity of their neighborhood. Business grew and economy prospered because goods and human resources could be distributed along great distances. As for the flaws of such an invention, laws with its regard were created, implemented and continue to improve according to the needs of the society. The damage to the environment is being mitigated; we now have emerging technologies for clean energy that are soon to replace the current oil burning fuel that is so toxic to the atmosphere.
Let us put aside the Automobile for a moment, and travel further back in time to the 15th century. This is a time which is said to have given birth to one of the most important technological inventions of a millennium, The Printing Press. Again as with the Automobile, we face a similar reluctance and rejection from some people, especially the few calligraphers, who considered their job an art and a life profession; undoubtedly calligraphy was an art, and it continues to be so. The "arrival' of the Printing Press did not abolish the artistry from calligraphy and manuscripts; it simply abolished its status as a monopoly on the written word. It opened the doors of literacy from just a few privileged nobles and clergy men -with access to expensive education- to the whole of humanity. It gradually and slowly strengthened the Renaissance from whence it was born, and gave way to the proliferation of education across the different social classes, and the subsequent social revolutions that followed. It also led the way to great thinkers such as Rousseau, Locke, Jefferson, and Hume (to name a few), and the thousands and eventually millions of lives who were then able to read their works, and use them as tools to change society, culture and themselves. And yet, I am willing to bet that some people during that time suggested that written words and scholar education belonged to a privileged few, and that to bring it to the masses of the underclass was at the very least, a distasteful sin. But that is just a personal inkling.
There are many memorable short quotes, remarks and even written works criticizing or expressing disdain for new technological implementations; such as the radio, airplanes, electricity, computers, telephone and television, etc. Most of these inventions at the time of their discovery seemed trivial, stupid or ridiculous contraptions with no practical implementation to many people. Here are a few exquisitely funny examples:
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." --Western Union internal memo, 1876.