The benefits for technology are evident. We have progressed, as a species, from prey to predators, solely because of our technological innovation. We have compensated our relative physical weakness with superior intellect, to become the most dominant species on Earth. I discussed this in the first part of this series. In the second part, I addressed what I felt were a few of the detriments of contemporary lifestyle – which is only possible due to the development of technology. I discussed our increased virtual stimulus, caloric input and the damage this has caused. I pondered on whether we had gone too far in this fight for survival and compromised our own survival. If we had become weaker because of a technologically resultant social inaptitude and physical weakness.
Fortunately, as I pondered in ‘Part 2’, I realised that the solutions for the mentioned impediments also lay in technology. For example, the current prolific incidence rate for obesity may no longer plague us anymore, breakthroughs regarding brown adipose tissue may soon provide a cure to this pandemic. Furthermore both types of Diabetes; age onset (Type 2) and juvenile (Type 1) can now be easily diagnosed and treated. This, in addition to a plethora of medical breakthroughs in the last century, has culminated in to an increase mean life expectancy from 58.5 years in 1900 to 66.2 years in 2013, on the sub-continent of India. So yes, as I pointed out in the previous article – “more people are now reported as dead due to obesity and its accompanying disorders, syndromes and diseases than hunger” – but because of technology you are still holistically more likely to live a longer life.
In the same train of thought climate change is a global predicament that was only made possible by the development of technology. The production of fossil fuel consuming, carbon dioxide excreting vehicles, the construction of gargantuan factories and the invention of structurally incredible, but ultimately damaging, molecules such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have all combined to wreak havoc on natural ecosystems all around the world, devastating life by shifting temperatures, altering pH levels and ultimately destroying habitats. Thankfully, as always we are able to ameliorate some of the damage we have done by gradually regenerating habitat in the form of reserves, introducing dwindling species into these protected areas from captivity. Such is the case with the Scimitar-horned Oryx in Northern Tunisia, this species now has a modicum of hope and can return from the brink of extinction. Other methods of attempting to preserve our environment and maintain biodiversity include the Svalbard Seed Bank, which protects approximately 400 000 thousand types of seed. Through this type of technology we may one day repair the damage we have caused to other creatures with whom we share this world.
Whilst repairing the damage we cause to the environment is important, we must also look to the future and attempt to prevent more damage from occurring. Unfortunately, this is not so simple We have become accustomed to having a large amount of energy available to us and have become reliant on fossil fuels as our major source of energy. Happily, technology is still here to save the day; solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal energy harvesters and hydrogen fuel cells all have the potential to sufficiently replace fossil fuels, meet our energy demands and possibly exceed them but only if used correctly. It is this distinction, I realise, upon which my entire technology discussion rests upon. It is the implementation of technology by humans, not technology itself that is the crux of the debate.
Technology is beautiful and awe-inspiring when we use it for space and deep-sea exploration. It is wondrous when examining microscopic organisms and molecular interactions. It provides hope through medicine, sustenance through improved agriculture, safety through construction and warmth and illumination through electricity. Or it can perpetuate despair and devastation through war. It can make possible the murder of hundreds of thousands people through the click of a button, causing destruction and damage that will need hundreds of years to heal. We have used it to do all these things.
Accounting for all this I am inclined to believe technology’s effects have been beneficial for us but not so for the rest of Planet Earth. Technology has been an all-powerful tool. It has given us access to the entire planet and beyond. We are everywhere because of it. We are in the Arctic and Antarctic. We roam both the blue skies and oceans. Through technology our will becomes action, our dreams become fact. We can now play God because of it; altering DNA and reviving species that were extinct many millennia ago. Whether technology is beneficial or detrimental is ultimately in our hands. The hands of the most dominant but destructive species in history. We shall either build a prosperous, peaceful world or we will break it.