Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Great Essay on Technology

Here's an excellent article from TruthOut whose themes will be very familiar to readers of this blog - Is Modern Technology Killing Us? It's a very thoughtful and well-reasoned essay that succinctly makes many of the points I've made here over the years (I've added some links to previously featured articles):
The problem with technology is that most innovations have unintended consequences, and those unintended consequences are piling up, causing harm and creating dangers of existential magnitude. We turn a blind eye to those dangers and uncritically presume that, for all but the creepiest technologies (such as animal cloning), the benefits outweigh the risks and that technological innovation is humanity's highest calling.

Global monoculture rarely sees a technology it doesn't like. Working off the tacit assumption that technological innovation can and will solve the most critical threats to civilization - the collapsing environment, poverty, tyranny, disease pandemics and resource depletion - we are quick to celebrate unproven technologies and slow, oh so dangerously slow, to critically examine their safety and utility. It's as though a magical spell has pervaded our groupthink, immersing us in deluded fantasies of meeting human needs with a few swipes of a touchscreen.

If you would like to be the laughingstock of your next dinner party, challenge the cultural presumption in favor of technological progress. Other than a few head nods about how we really should unplug from our hand-held devices for a few minutes a day, you will likely be scoffed at as a backward-thinking loser whose resentment probably lies in your pathetic inability to figure out how to organize your iTunes library.

You might even be called a Luddite, because most people, liberals included, think the Luddites were knee-jerk reactionaries scared of any form of technology when, in fact, they were tradesmen and artisans engaged in a class protest against "all Machinery hurtful to Commonality" (i.e. forms of mechanization that damaged people and uprooted communities by forcing skilled workers to become wage slaves in factories). To be labeled a Luddite today is to be intellectually and culturally dismissed even by class-conscious leftists who have a blind spot when it comes to the politics of technology...

Technology has its place. After all, the alphabet and the magnetic compass were innovations in their day, and I feel pretty confident in asserting that literacy and knowing which way is north are, on balance, good things. What we as progressive thinkers must do - because no one else is doing it - is acknowledge the ways in which technology can serve us, understand the ways in which many technologies have harmed us and develop some kind of rubric through which we can evaluate the merits of existing and emerging technologies. Furthermore, we must be mindful of the ways in which technologies can be used by corporate and government actors to repress and control us and question whether the benefits of using the technologies outweigh the risks.

1. It weakens our resilience.

2. It fuels hyper-consumption.

Technology separates us from the natural world by diverting our focus from natural to human-made wonders. Every day, we are offered a free gift of joy and serenity courtesy of Mother Nature, but we usually opt instead for artificial pleasures like video games. A vicious cycle is born, in which our separation from nature and from each other leaves us feeling empty and compels us to seek more creature comforts to fill the hole, and we then become addicted to the pleasure of consuming and spend even less time connecting with people and nature.

3. It accelerates environmental ruin, resource depletion and resource wars.

Having never known anything but an artificial lifestyle, we have no reason to think that the degradation of the natural world is of any consequence to us. Sure, it's sad that the fish will all be gone in 50 years and, yes, it sure is unusually hot outside, but I can just pop my frozen lasagna in the microwave and turn up the air conditioning. This delusion that we are separate from nature is the perilous essence of the techno-topian myth. The sooner we can shatter it, the better.

4. It carries some seriously scary risks.

Look at cell phones and Wi-Fi, universally adopted despite the fact that 75 percent of non-industry-sponsored studies have found that cell phones damage our DNA and that brain cancer in children has increased 1 percent a year for the past 20 years. On top of this, we bombard ourselves 24/7 with the radiation emitted from wireless networks and cell phone towers with nary a study of health effects. With cancer latency periods of up to 30 years, it will be another 20 years before we know the full extent of the harm. In the meantime, we're all subjects of the biggest radiation exposure experiment in history.

5. It often diminishes rather than enriches our quality of life.

If rates of depression, anxiety and the disintegration of social bonds are our guide, we already have too much technology for our ancient souls to integrate...

6. It erodes our privacy.

7. It deepens inequality.
Much more at the link - Is Modern Technology Killing Us? (TruthOut) 

3 comments:

  1. Great post. This article is really very interesting and effective. I think its must be helpful for us. Thanks for your nice post.
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