Probably one of those topics that people have been debating since someone brought back the first burning stick and started a fire. “Progress, who needs it?” Well, in a lot of ways, we all need it. At our present world population figure of 7 billion and counting, we could hardly live without it. And I enjoy all the toys we now have courtesy of technological progress.
The computer I am typing on, the TV that I can watch movies on, the phone so I can keep in touch with friends and family. I enjoy the ability to maintain a consistent temperature inside my house no matter what it is doing outside.
We have much better health overall, live longer, and enjoy more free time. If someone asked you today, what period of time you’d want to live in, how would you answer that? Would it be the past or the future? I find it much easier to picture living in the future than any time in the past. For me, the past would be a place to visit, not a place that I would want to live in every day.
Of course, this progress has not come without costs; the stresses that we have today are quite a bit different than any other time in history. The pace of change seems to be accelerating with each passing year. Just over my lifetime, there has been considerable change. Comparing the 19” TV we had when I was growing up compared to the flat screen I have today puts things in perspective.
And we’re technological innovations to protect our environment. We are realizing that we only have one Earth, and we need to take better care of it for future generations. Hopefully this will get easier to do with each technology cycle.
But we’ve also misused technology or techniques that were ahead of their time. An example of this was the widespread attempt at farming lands that could not support it. I am referring to the dust bowl period from 1931-1939. Overuse of land for farming created some of the problems of that period.
My other example would be nuclear power plants. They were supposed to be our next big step in energy production. I remember a little bit about Three Mile Island, probably more due to a Saturday Night Live skit than actual news coverage. The most recent problems have been in Japan, due to the large earthquake and Tsunami which damaged several of their nuclear power plants. Russia is still working on the site of their largest nuclear disaster.
And technological innovation has also improved our ability to kill each other. Collectively, the world has numerous weapons of mass destruction including nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Each of them has been used in some capacity over the last 100 years. Luckily, many of the major countries in the world have signed agreements to either not use them at all or use them only under specific conditions.
In the future, the power to help people or hurt them is going to increase. To quote a fairly famous line that can be used for technology, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
What is your biggest tech-related fear?
Next topic: Top inventions or discoveries for humankind.