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How Dependent upon Technology do you believe Human Beings to be?
Do You envision this dependence as foretelling a brighter future or a kind of self-destructive hell?
In approaching this question, we must remember that “the use of technology becomes the unique fashion by which humans relate to the world” (THC-625 Lecture 1, p 2) and this is the crux of the matter when we contemplate how and if humanity is “dependent” on technology. The range of societal civilizations in the present world is vast. Therefore, in answering this question, we must first determine whether we are speaking only of “Western” civilization which is unquestionably advanced in both technology and intention or the more primal “Third World” indigenous human societies and cultures of undeveloped nations who are still using primitive tools as they tend to the simple, sustainable subsistence of their communities or villages, expressing only basic “vital” needs and intentions.
Most present day indigenous people have avoided (or attempted to avoid) by their geographical isolation, the impending “progress” of industrialization. These people have successfully integrated their culture holistically with the natural world, so much so that their technology, their tools for existence, are easily produced, controlled and utilized. There does not seem to be much need to develop technology further. They have lived within nature in the same way for thousands of years passing their values, beliefs and practices along to subsequent generations who, no doubt, will live much the same way if allowed to live uninterrupted by more civilized man’s “progress.”
These niches of humanity do not seem to be dependent on technology. They have not become alienated from the natural world that nurtures them as are the people of more advanced industrialized societies. So then, narrowing our perspective to these advanced societies, the more poignant question becomes whether the most advanced societies, those of the Western World (Europe, North America) and some emerging eastern countries, are finding themselves dependent on their technology as it is the power of their technology “as a crucial agent of change, (that) has a prominent place in the culture of modernity” (Smith & Marx 1994). Perhaps it is the advanced industrialized societies, alienated and disenfranchised from the natural world, who now find themselves dependent on the “tools” they have developed over the progressive course of their evolution and intention.
As stated in this Course’s Lecture 1 notes (p 2) “How we employ technology expresses our intentions, projects and values.” Today, in the Twenty-First century, humanity as found in the highly industrialized, consumer-driven Western World, as well as emerging eastern countries, seems to be slave to the technologies it has developed particularly in the last two hundred years. According to Smith & Marx, “…a technical innovation suddenly appears and causes important things to happen” and “taken together, these before-and-after narratives give credence to the idea of ‘technology’ as an independent entity, a virtually autonomous agent of change.”
Given that most of the population of the industrialized world is connected to the internet, has a cell phone, uses some form of energy-consuming vehicle for transportation, is committed to a “modern” kitchen of leisure-lending, energy-consuming appliances, not to mention the seemingly ubiquitous supply of potable water and labyrinth of wastewater systems, we would be hard pressed to suddenly have to give up these luxuries and narrow our wants and desires to just “vital needs” as do our more primitive cousins around the globe. Yet those who have survived catastrophic disasters at the mercy of nature or even those created by man upon man, find themselves mired in the tragedy of lost luxuries and vanishing sensibilities.
It seems that we have alienated ourselves further and further from the natural world, becoming more and more dependent on technology and industry as an alternative source of nurturing, forcing us to partake more wholly in a synthetic world. The kind of future before us will no doubt reflect our inherent intentions towards our interdependent network of civilizations and towards ourselves as moralistic (or not) responsible individuals. Our long history of domination threatens of a foreboding future unless we question our collective wisdom and recognize our adolescent penchant for self-satisfying frivolous whimsy. Our situation is perilous but still we rocket upward, almost blindly tethered to the indescribable creations of our dreams, speculating on extinction yet hoping for our promised future.
Smith, M. R. and L. Marx (1994). Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Murphy, L. L. and Dominick A. Iorio, Technology and the Human Community Lecture Lesson 1, Module 1, (THC-625) Thomas Edison State College, Trenton, NJ