Society must consider itself in technology talks

Technology itself cannot be defined in 140 characters or even 750 words. So I'll give it a college try — technology is the development of any digital or physical tool made by humans to make life and work easier. It pertains to entertainment, medicine creation, the Internet, mass transportation and countless other areas of life. We should appreciate the times we live in because we are starting to embrace and utilize technology that we never could have imagined in elementary school. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan.

When I read halfway down Monday's editorial "Consider drawbacks of technology," I was so taken aback and disturbed by the claims that it pretty much put me in caffeine rage.

The arguments made, such as "people who rely on GPS devices ... take the brainless route", "self-driving cars ... could be deployed in combat" and "progress often makes us lazy," are in many ways, shallow, untenable and, overall, ignorant of the bigger picture. First of all, the concept of establishing GPS itself required engineering, programming and the foundation of thinking. Looking up directions does not take a lot of brainpower. If I'm going to an interview, I would like extra time to think about questions on the interview instead of stressing over how to get there. It's a matter of using our scarce resource of time more efficiently so instead of thinking less, we are now thinking the same amount and about things that actually matter to us.

Keep in mind that in terms of automobile safety, there have been lots of key technological developments to keep drivers safe and damage minimal. To list a few, these include the rudimentary airbag, seat belt and rear bumper that is missing on every other car on campus. Then came along all the advanced, computer-based systems such as cell phone apps that disable the car when the user is texting while driving, electronic stability control to keep cars from losing control in any climate and programs that can detect when the driver is falling asleep and slow the car down.

Perhaps a new system will prevent cars from crashing by using repelling magnets. Progress — which the editorial claims leads to laziness — could actually lead to new ways to use technology to enhance safety we haven't thought of yet. If progress is laziness, then why do workers labor evenings and weekends, working on programs for free to give out to the world? How do you explain the Open Source cyberspace, where scientific calculators are available for homework? Progress could keep drivers from deploying cars into combat and keep drunk drivers from crashing into others. So there cannot be a discussion of technology contributing to more automobile harm without understanding that there are no limits to enhancing safety by technological advancements.

There are many discussions about the downsides of technology that we cannot have until we look at ourselves in the mirror. Technology is not necessarily a double-edged sword in every instance. Henry Ford didn't build a car to crash it into pedestrians for fun. In its first weeks, the Internet was not the cause for murders. Now every month you may hear about Craigslist postings leading to murder and robbery. Many of us still remember the suicides of Tyler Clementi and many others around the nation caused by cyber-bullying and abuse of social media. Moreover, there are many news articles that herald developments in drone weaponry — robotic, pilot-less fighter jets. Sadly, there is no simple, easy solution to addressing these emerging issues. Education helps, but it seems with our priorities in this backward society, very little people are interested in what's going on and are unaware of the big picture. It is understandable to be hesitant and wary in our technology era, if humanity cannot keep up. Technology can, and has, caused pain. So the real question is, when will our society start looking in the mirror?

Allan Wu is a Livingston College senior majoring in biological sciences with a minor in physics.


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