Hello everyone and welcome back.
I’ve been a busy little blog-person these past couple of weeks, with work, sickness and travel being in the way of updating this here site. But during this time I’ve had time – short as it was – to do some thinking (Note to self: do a lot more of that). Travelling from Georgia through Alabama, Mississippi and showing my face in Louisiana, it took me away from all things high-tech. I don’t use my cell phone while I drive. We camped in a no-cellular-reception farm in Carriere MS. I left my laptop home. You could say I traveled back in time. Not so long back, mind you. What I’m describing here were perfectly normal conditions just twenty years ago. Dear God, how far we’ve come…
Which brings me exactly to the point I’d like to raise here.
Technology is great. Technology can make life simpler, can make doing some things more efficient, can speed them up. It can make things possible that we (well, most of us) never dreamed possible. It can even save life in some cases. I’m not going to sit here and preach burning TVs, computers and smart phones down in town square. Nor am I going to say that all “progress” must come to a screeching halt. I’m no technophobe. I even write these very words on a computer, publishing them on a website, using a funky theme.
No, what I want to say about “progress” is that we may need to stop every now and then and ask ourselves a couple of questions.
Such as – where are we going with this? What purpose does a certain technology serve? To what end do we develop this thing or the other?
Question such as – How would that impact human society/ies? What kind of difference would that make to our lives? and do we wish to go through this change?
Or such as – what other applications would this piece of technology have that might harm us?
As I often do, I’d like to look at art to illustrate. Below is a conversation taken from the film “Jurassic Park“, based on Michael Crichton’s fantastic book. In it, Dr. Ian Malcolm says it like it is (Credit: http://www.imdb.com).
John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
John Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: [shaking his head] No…
John Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, hold on. This isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction.
John Hammond: I simply don’t understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.
Dr. Ellie Sattler: Well, the question is, how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it? I mean, you have plants in this building that are poisonous, you picked them because they look good, but these are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they’re in, and they’ll defend themselves, violently if necessary.
John Hammond: Dr. Grant, if there’s one person here who could appreciate what I’m trying to do…
Dr. Alan Grant: The world has just changed so radically, and we’re all running to catch up. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but look… Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?
John Hammond: [laughing] I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! You’re meant to come down here and defend me against these characters, and the only one I’ve got on my side is the blood-sucking lawyer!
Donald Gennaro: Thank you.
As you can see, it applies to all kinds of technologies and “progress”.
I’ve been keeping that word – Progress – inside quotation marks for a reason. We seem to view any and all inventions as progress. A step forward. And look at people who don’t salute as “backwards”. But if progress should be a forward motion then I ask:
- Are we moving forward with each and every invention, patent and technological advance?
- If so, where exactly are we heading?
- Do we want to go there?
- Is this really necessary?
- What are the risks involved?
- Who’s qualified to take these risks for the rest of us?
Let me know what you think. What other questions come up when you think of these? and of course, in the name of progress, and even if it’s not patented by me – Like, share and comment.