Thought of the Week: Are WE Progressing With Technology?

I have been thinking a lot about this question lately and I can honestly say that I don’t have a clear answer. Have we as an entire society, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, or any other socio-economic or socio-cultural measure, progressed? My instinctual response or realist observation is that we have not. The optimist perspective of my thinking is in direct conflict with this “supposed” pessimistic contemplation. I remind myself that it can’t be pessimistic if it is reality.
Then there is another part of me that is quite downtrodden that I could even consider replying to this question with anything other than a resounding yes. Of course we have progressed! Just look around and see the wonderful technological advancements for yourself!
As I casually inspect the society in which I live in, as well as the one in which I see depicted in the media, I tend to accept the notion that true progress hasn’t been reached.
I definitely don’t want to illustrate myself as someone who is judgmental of the technology in our society. I am not discouraged with technology nor do I expect or seek the worst of our society. I am however, disappointed in the direction in which our society is headed.
We have been extremely fortunate to study and even witness some of the greatest progress mankind has ever known. Even in the past fifty years, the innovations that people have created in technology, the arts, science, education, social equality, and government are remarkable and should be celebrated.
But as I watch or read the news the majority of what I see and read about is violence and gossip. Naturally, this is the case because this is what sells. This is what people want to see and read about. Most of the news on the Internet and T.V. is negative. How are people supposed to live in a happy, healthy, and safe society when all they see and hear is how crummy society is? I wasn’t around forty or fifty years ago, but I am willing to bet that it wasn’t like this back then. Why do we accept this kind of portrayal on the media? Is this progress?
Part of the problem nowadays is that everything is portrayed on some type of media outlet whether it is the Internet, television, radio, newspaper, or magazine. Nothing is safe from societal scrutiny. There is no real privacy.
I have no problem with this technological progress our society has accumulated. But we must ask ourselves at what cost have we absorbed all this technology. How has societal progress been affected?
On a daily basis I observe people interacting with one another via cell phone. People, especially young people, don’t know how connect with one another socially sans their cell phones. I recently observed four adolescents sitting at a restaurant table and the entire meal not one of them spoke a word to the other person. Perhaps it was a time of the day where they could check their Facebook statuses or Twitter feeds and catch up on missed text messages, but they missed out an opportunity to connect at a social level or at the very least to observe their surroundings. We are so accustomed to answering the dings of our phones that we overlook life unveiling itself around us. We are so conditioned to our cell phones. When the phone dings we are like a group of dogs in Pavlov’s experiment except Pavlov in this case is Apple and Samsung. Is that progress?
I know this because I have to resist the urge to check my phone every time it dings and rings. I often catch myself automatically reaching for my phone. Sometimes I am not even aware I am doing it!
I am also not anti-Facebook or social media. I use Facebook and Twitter. I think they all have their benefits, but when we allow social media to engulf our lives to the point that we are spending most of the day scrolling through feeds and not living life, than we should all be concerned. I am not even going to delve into the “couch potato” phenomenon that T.V has constructed.
The ones who are affected most by society’s “technological progress” is our young people. Kids aren’t as creative as they were even ten or twenty years ago. They don’t invent new games and play outside as much. They don’t know how to. These are precious moments of their lives they are losing because technology is taking on the role of the creative outlet. Kids are playing video and computer games instead of spending time outside being active. Parents are using technology as a way to “quiet” their children instead of communicating with them on a psychological and social level.
Real life skills are in danger of becoming extinct as younger generations become more reliant on technology. More kids know how to turn on a laptop or tablet than know how to swim or ride a bike. Text messages in school are a preferred method of communication instead of face-to-face communication. Kids don’t need to know how to navigate because the GPS on their phones will guide them.
Technology is great. We have a lot of new and exciting growth because of it. It makes our lives easier, and in many cases, more enjoyable. As technology continues to progress we have to be cognizant of how it will help us progress as people especially the impressionable youth.
There is no way to stop the influx of technology nor should we want to. But we need to question how much we want technology to control our lives. When the first Model-Ts were introduced in the early twentieth century people I am sure people were excited because this technology made their travel times easier as opposed to horse and carriage. This was progress.
When social media first became popular people were excited because it allowed more social connection and networking. But was the purpose to control and overtake the users’ lives? Is this progress?
The onus of responsibility isn’t necessarily on the technological innovators. It is on us as users. It is on parents and mentors of young people. Let’s progress but in the process, let’s not lose sight of what is important. There is a big world out there. Life is occurring right before our eyes. We can’t take advantage of this completely if we are stuck in front of a tech screen. So ask yourself are you progressing?

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