September 21st 2004 Modern Technology and Society

I used to consider myself a huge fan of technology, but lately, I’ve been doubting the positives of modern technology in our society. Specifically, my mind was jogged when I read an article on MSNBC about how whale watching is injuring orcas off the coast of Washington. While I was a bit unsure before, reading this article has really made me think about how modern technology has destroyed not only our environment and fauna, but our way of life as well.

Before you read too much into this, I am by no means a “technophobe.” I believe technology has many important uses in our society today. For one, I’ll be honest—I’m a big fan of this thing we call the Internet, and (generally speaking) of computers in general. I think that they’ve done a lot more good than harm, and just the fact that this worldwide network of computers makes communication easy and instantaneous is a big plus for society, in my mind. I’m all for quick communication with all parts of the globe. It does a lot to bring people together and increase communication between cultures that would otherwise have little or no contact with each other. The Internet also facilitates the dissemination of knowledge across the globe, which, in general, is a good thing.

Unfortunately, technology has a lot to destroy our planet, and the threads of society in general. Technology has resulted in an unprecedented use of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal. I don’t have the exact figures handy, but I believe we have used more fossil fuels in the last fifty years than in the five hundred years prior to that. (If one of the five people who read this website know that to be false, please feel free to correct me.) Not only does that mean fewer fossil fuels for our children (by some estimates, we could run out of oil in as little as sixty years), but it has resulted in climatic change (contrary to what the Bush administration says). Furthermore, technology has led to unimagined population expansion, resulting in less drinkable water, more world hunger, and myriad other problems linked, at least partially, to a population boon.

Part of this population explosion can be traced to advances in medical technology. I’m all for people living long, healthy lives, but I do think that sometimes, we as humans go entirely too far in attempting to forestall death. Unfortunately, death is a fact of life; it’s something with which we need to deal. I don’t wish to go on a long diatribe about the errors in the way we handle death in our society, but suffice it to say that there all comes a time when we must die. Technology has allowed us to put off death in numerous, equally unique ways. I wonder sometimes if that is an entirely good thing. There are certainly some times when it’s good we have technology to keep people alive, but sometimes we just try way too hard to keep people who are near death alive. I say, let them die with dignity. I think it makes dealing with death easier, and it certainly helps the out of control population problem. But, once again, I digress. Back to the matter at hand.

Many times, I yearn for a simpler way of life, a life apart from technology. As I said, some technology is good, but I think it would be nice to get away from cars, planes, things of that nature—the technology that destroys more than it helps. What would really be great is if we had an administration that promoted alternative energy sources, instead of giving tax breaks to coal-fired power plants. What would be even better is if people walked more, or at least took a bus; and instead of planes, took eco-friendly magnetic-levitation trains, powered by eco-friendly power plants, to places far away. Even better: if you had to cross an ocean in the process, you’d take an eco-friendly sailboat powered by nothing but the wind, just like in the old days. These boats wouldn’t have noisy propellers that disrupted the environment of our watery neighbors. That, of course, would be an optimal situation, but naturally, we as humans won’t notice the intelligence of these ideas until it is too late. That’s right—we’ll stop at nothing to destroy ourselves, and take down all the living organisms on planet Earth with us! (Except those beetles that can survive a nuclear attack—they’re pretty tough, and I bet even we, with all our greenhouse emissions, couldn’t possibly kill them.)