Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Successes and pitfalls of technology

Technology has invaded workplaces, homes, vehicles, portable devices of all kinds, etc. Many will say it has freed man. This is true, from one point of view; appliances greatly facilitate household chores. It has also allowed man to express his creativity far more easily; inexpensive software now allows people with limited aptitude for drawing to create dazzling presentations and websites. The illustrations they create compete with those drawn by professional designers before the personal computer era. Cars have enabled the development of North America as we know it today, by giving greater freedom of movement to the middle class. Quick and relatively inexpensive air transport has brought continents closer and allowed people with average incomes to discover exotic and distant lands, a privilege once reserved to the elite.

But the effects of technology are not always positive. Increased individualism and selfishness often results from its use. It also induces a form of addiction, which sometimes almost amounts to slavery: millions of people, staring at a computer screen, line up thousands of lines of code to teach computers how to process vast amounts of information, day after day, in many cases night after night. More simply, remember your dismay when your computer crashes or a power outage occurs. Also think about the violations of privacy and all forms of viruses and other malware. Moreover, technology has contributed to widen the gap between rich and poor nations and even between well-off and underprivileged people in Western societies, in short, it has created a digital divide.

In conclusion, we must exercise discernment in the use of technology and keep in mind that they are not omnipotent; they will never confer eternal youth, let alone immortality, on humanity, and will not redefine our values for us. They are inanimate and as such without values; they simply fall within the system of values that we privilege. Technological tools can however be very useful to humanity, provided that we direct their development and use. Mankind is too often made to serve machines, or at least forced to adjust his life or his behaviour to them, whereas machines should be made to adapt to humans and be useful to mankind.

To learn more about these issues, see «Consommation et nouvelles technologies — Au monde de l’hyper» (Consumption and New Technologies — In the Hyper world), soon to be translated in English.

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