Technological advancement is our friend, except when it isn’t. New technologies have helped us do what previous generations thought impossible. Technology has so revolutionized our lives that we have come to believe that technology is the way forward to a better life. In many cases, technological advance and those pushing the envelope have made two promises. We want to believe them, but our experience tells us that when someone is pushing the envelope, their promise will ultimately ring hollow.
Those pushing for advance often hold out the promise that technology will make life unqualifiedly better.
Certain technological advances have made life in first world nations much more comfortable. The dangers and hardships of nature do not concern us. We have all but eradicated many diseases that plagued previous generations. Modern medicine has squelched fears of most deadly outbreaks through vaccination and other public health programs. And yet, while the illnesses of the past do not concern us, there are newer scares as new strains of disease take their place. Doctors face more virulent medicine resistant diseases that threaten to do great harm if they spread through a city.
Closer to home, our phones are ever at the ready for some news or update that helps us stay more connected than at any other time in history. We can post across multiple sites and keep up with friends we haven’t seen personally in years. For some, it has become almost inconceivable to have a free moment disconnected from social media. We may be more connected to an ever growing stream of images and information, but we are just beginning to realizing the costs.
Recent studies have revealed an increasing feeling of disconnectedness and depression. Another study has shown a correlation between some patients with depression and the amount of time they spend on social media. We have made an alternate reality to the deprivation of the reality around us.
While the particular circumstances are new, the disappointment is not. At the beginning of the 20th Century, there was an unbridled optimism that humanity could work out its failings and usher in a new utopian future. Technological advancement (though primitive by today’s standards) was making life better. The motto of the day was “onward and upward.” It seemed that nothing could stand in the way of a utopian future. Nothing except battlefields across Europe marred by the horrible reality of World War I.
What hope remained after that gruesome tragedy was fragile. In the years that followed, it looked as if humanity might be capable of moving forward once again. World War II completely shattered those hopes. Particularly devastating were the images of a mushroom cloud rising above Hiroshima. In an instant, the technological advance that had trumpeted a new utopian future became some of the deadliest seconds in human history.
Herein lies the problem. Technology cannot deliver the promise of an unqualifiedly better life because it always lies in the hands of sinful humanity. The same technology that brought vast amount information to our fingertips has also brought the devastating effects of pornography. The technology that made online shopping possible has also fueled the growth of the black market. Technology cannot deliver on its promise because behind technology stands humanity; a humanity that is fallen, sinful and rebellious.
The reality of our role in technological development will always mean that the good that it brings will always come with a correlative downside. We may not immediately see the downside, but it will eventually rear its head.