Technology Isn’t Inherently Bad. It Depends on How We Use It.
A few weeks or so ago, I was having a friendly conversation with an individual that later turned into an argument about whether technology was terrible for us or not. They were on the side of the former, and I was on the latter. And I defended technology on familiar terms like listing its goodness and omg how I use it to improve my productivity and connection to the world in a way that benefits me and my self-development. They were all familiar terms and good enough points, but it made it seem as though I was far removed from reality. And I felt the need to turn this into a more in-depth conversation.
I firmly believe that Technology Isn’t Inherently Bad. It Depends on How We Use It. Let’s talk more about it.
Scene: The African savannah, two and a half million years ago. An early human picks up a large branch, strips off the bark, and shapes it into something resembling a club. He then bludgeons his neighbor with it and steals his dinner.
Should that have been the end of technology per se?
Where would we be today if stone-age Luddites had decried the dangers of clubs, spears, and fire and insisted that the evils of technology outweighed its benefits? We would probably still be living in caves.
Thankfully humanity has embraced technology throughout our history, and as a result, we are now the most sophisticated creatures on the planet. Because while clubs can be used for nefarious purposes, they’re also great for hunting food, building structures, playing drums, and any number of other beneficial purposes.
The lesson is that technology isn’t inherently bad, though it can be used badly. Technology is what we make of it. Should we put safe nuclear technology toward powering our cities or building bombs? Do we use the internet to enlighten the population or spread disinformation? Will our cellphones bridge continents or drive us further apart?
Our tools are just that — tools. They can’t do anything on their own and are neither good nor evil while sitting on a shelf. It’s not until someone pulls them down and drives them toward a purpose that we can speak about “good” and “bad.” The morality of technology depends on how we use it, and that means we get to choose.
“Beneficial” and “Harmful” are Two Sides of the Same Hammer
It’s easy to get carried away by the “evils” of technology and claim that we should leave well enough alone. The eponymous Luddites of 19th century England were sure that new textile weaving machines would mean the end of their craft, ushering in a new age where the working man could no longer afford to feed his family.
They broke into factories, smashing machinery, intent on ridding England of the evils of technology. But their crusade was shortsighted. The industrial revolution that followed, far from ruining the working man, uplifted human civilization, creating a standard of living unheard of previously. People still had jobs, and now they were far more productive.
Modern-day critics fail to realize that by rejecting technology based on the harm it could bring, they’re also rejecting all of its potential benefits.
Yes, new genetic engineering technologies could allow for the creation of weaponized diseases. But these techniques also hold the promise of defeating disease once and for all. Should we walk away from all the wonderful things technology can bring us out of fear of how it might be misused?
Don’t Fear technology. Control It.
When we realize that technology is neither good nor bad, but simply a product of human ambition, then we see where we should devote our efforts. We should work to ensure an educated, ethical society devoted to positive uses for the tools we create. We need systemic safeguards against technological abuses. In short, we need to learn how to control our technology instead of letting it control us.
If we limit the potential for misuse, then we don’t need to fear technology. We can use it as intended to uplift humanity and make us an ever more capable species.
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Let’s do this again! Thanks for reading, folks.