The technological revolution of the past few decades have brought about accelerating changes in the way we live, work, and communicate. In the future, it seems clear that the rate of technological innovation will not slow down. In fact, development of new technology is compounding every year. Maybe even every day with new discoveries enabling new and greater technologies in a virtuous cycle. Over centuries, we’ve come to rely on technology, and our lives are wildly different from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. So why is technology important enough to have brought about such a radical shift in our species?
Well, it’s helpful to start by understanding that technology is not just the digital advancements of the past few decades. Technology, broadly defined, is the application of knowledge to achieve practical purposes. Fire, the wheel, or writing can all be considered technologies that the human race has invented for practical use in our daily lives. These primitive technologies have built on one another to produce better technologies, like the steam engine or the printing press. Over time the development of technology has accelerated to the point of today’s internet, self-driving cars, and smart homes.
The Debate Over Whether Technology is Good
While we generally like technology and enjoy its benefits, several thinkers and philosophers have questioned whether technology is good or evil for the human race. The debate is important and fascinating, because it’s possible that primitive hunter-gatherers were happier and worked less than modern humans. However, most people would agree that the relative safety and comfort of modern society. This outweighs whatever advantages hunter-gatherer society might have had.
Instead, today’s debate over the benefits of technology largely revolves around how much we use technology. Whether technology is replacing important social and cultural interactions in our society. Perhaps unsurprisingly, CNN recently reported that the average American spends ten hours per day looking at a screen of some type.
There are certainly tradeoffs when it comes to the increasing reach of technology. While our devices have us more captivated than ever, they also help us connect with others more easily. Now, it’s not uncommon to interact on Twitter with someone you’ve never met before or join an online forum of people with similar interests to you. It’s a paradox. Technology has undoubtedly made us more connected and informed as a society by taking us away from face-to-face interactions and into virtual ones.
How Technology Has Changed Our Lives Already
Ultimately, however, technology seems to have a net positive effect on society. Sure, greater communication means getting spam emails. It also means it’s easier than ever before to reconnect with old high school classmates or find a spark via online dating. The expansion of communication is one of the greatest benefits of the internet age.
Technology has also proliferated the amount of and access to data. We can now use Google to answer our queries instantly. Big data software allow us to gain insights into how the world and business work. This increase in data accessibility has led to productivity growth. According to one study from the University of Southern California, 74% of internet users believe that they can accomplish more with less time thanks to technology. Increased productivity means that more time can be spent on solving the world’s pressing problems like hunger, education, and climate change. We can also focus on allowing for the development of new and better technologies.
Good Technology is Helping with Global Development
New initiatives around the world are using technology to investigate and help with violence, poverty and illiteracy. One nonprofit is using drones to monitor religious and tribal tensions in Sub-Saharan Africa and warn communities via text message if there is conflict. In the area of education, the Global Learning XPRIZE is challenging teams to develop software and hardware that children around the world could use on their own to learn basic math, science, and literacy concepts.
We’re seeing that technology has enormous potential for social good. According to Handeep Singh in the Guardian, technology could be the deciding factor in large scale societal changes toward greater global equality. New technologies allow residents of developing countries to participate equally in the global economy and promote human rights. Technology could be the key to shrinking the gap between rich and poor nations.
How and Why Technology Is Important for the Future
The development of new technologies has already changed the way we live as a species. In the future, new technologies promise to bring a multitude of knowledge. Like artificial intelligence, space travel, and new means of energy production within humanity’s grasp. That future is exciting and entirely possible in the coming decades of development. It promises to make life on earth easier and more fun for humanity.