Judging the effects of something on a state of affairs requires a standard scale characterized by a spectrum that separates two opposite axiological points: the positive and the negative. The context of the present issue brings us to the question, What are the positive and the negative effects of technology on society? We raise this question this early so as not to be distracted by the unilateral notion that technology is always on the right track as far as its effects on society are concerned. This mentality gets prevalent because the loudest voices we hear and ofttimes choose to listen to are those of the fanatical proponents and users of the technology in question. Their advocacy achieves high-profile strength as media back-up through advertising blows out of proportion the spinned-off story of such technology’s best points. This strategy sways people away from getting themselves into a critical mode which generally leads them to a state of pathetic gullibility.
This line of concern does not, however, prevent us from coming up with a positive judgment. Rather, the challenge put forward is to engender a fair and hence impartial acuity on the issue of technology’s effects on society. This is deemed reasonable as the task considers the intermediary stages that run from one end of the scale to the other. We are therefore looking into the fuzzy shades that constitute the spectrum on whose basis our evaluation is intended to issue out.
Technology is generally humanity’s achievement to facilitate an otherwise burdensome endeavor. At the onset, we see the worthwhile intent that pushes onward the positive value of technology. It is not aimed to destroy but to build, not to obstruct but to facilitate, not to generate problems but to solve them. At the inaugural stage, technology is stamped with a pristine character that promotes productivity, facilitates proficiency, enhances expertise and advances competence. All these even transcend the individual beneficiary to fully embrace an entire society’s movement towards a higher level of progressive refinement. In this sense, technology fulfills its fundamental mandate in the service of humanity.
However, technology’s value is never inherent in itself; it is rather an attribution that emanates from its human users. It is also in the hands of its human users that technology could go awry and have its course diverted from its original trajectory. Technology that has originally been projected to serve the interest not only of its individual users but also of the society which has tolerated and accepted its operation can, therefore, lead to negative impacts when used irresponsibly.
In the post-modern/post-industrial era, post-modern technology has dominated the socio-cultural landscape. There’s no doubt that society has tremendously benefitted from the amazing technology that has continually been invented and innovated in a seemingly uninterrupted direction. Household chores, office works and factory operations that used to be a drag in the past have been transformed by new technology into no-sweat tasks. We are surrounded by amazing gadgets, equipment, and tools at our beck and call–facilities effortlessly operated at our fingertips literally.
In the present dispensation, the Internet dominates the post-modern technological scenario. It has brought us to unprecedented wonders in the cyber-world of instant information and facilitative applications. The exhilaration seems endless as we explore novel and yet uncharted regions that pop up along the information highway. We have even discovered recreational activities that enthrall our playfulness to the point of getting ensnared by their challenging offers to go on and on and on until the wee hours of the morning. We are caught flat-footed by the magic of this technology in the “third wave” civilization (with apologies to the late futurologist Alvin Toffler) which is more popularly called the age of information.
But what the Internet offers is not always beneficial to individual persons in particular and to society in general. It has introduced social network sites and exciting applications like online games that have led people to the point of addiction. Time wastage has increased and gainful productivity has decreased. Young people, in particular, would rather spend endless hours beating virtual adversaries, watching rib-tickling videos and comical photos on tablets, mobiles, and laptops at the expense of spending more quality time attending to serious school assignments or job responsibilities. In this kind of situation, the excitement seems endless and the passing of time is something immaterial.
Too much exposure to the aforementioned gadgets affects brain functioning and the circadian rhythm as well. In the process, what is actually affected is the brain as enthusiasts lose their sense of concentration. People in this condition cannot be expected to function effectively and efficiently in more serious undertakings both in society and in the workplace. If worse comes to worst, the whole scenario may even end up to be a serious case of a health hazard as people get too preoccupied in games and social networks so that they simply settle to consume junk foods and find it difficult to schedule a time for physical exertions.
Alone in front of the screen, they have put themselves segregated from their fellow human beings in the context of a community of warm bodies. A face-to-face conversation is no longer a common encounter as sending online messages via email or Whatsapp among others has become the order of the day. In this sense, socialization has been redefined in a way that doesn’t require the actual presence of individual persons in paramount reality.
In conclusion, we say that it’s one thing to cherish the positive effects of technology and it’s another to be conscious of its detrimental impacts on the individual and the society. We all want to enjoy the amenities and benefits offered by present-day technology but we should also be aware of their negative aftermath when utilized irresponsibly. We still have a long way to go and it is important to instill the positive value of technology to the youth of this generation and beyond if such technology is used with a high degree of responsibility, creativity, and efficiency.
(c)Ruel F. Pepa, 25 July 2019