Technology and Society

How does technology affect other areas of our life?

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Is the visible world around us all there is?” My favorite author Philip Yancey circles around this question in his book Rumors of Another World. I like that thought-provoking book. It explores the possibility of another world that coexists in our physical world. It challenges me to continually pay attention to the bigger picture we call life. It makes me always aware of many other unseen and unexplored realms that are in constant contact with every aspect of our life that are equally important.

Technology for easier life

It is a common acknowledgement that tools are purposely designed to make people’s tasks easier. Since technology is considered as a tool, it follows that technology is developed to make our lives easier. Well, I don’t argue against that. We are surrounded by tools everywhere…and that significantly makes our many tasks easier. I no longer need to roam around the city streets to look for tools. Inside my small room I have electric fan, exhaust fan, lockers, bookshelf, single and double beds, chair, floor and ceiling, walls, pens and papers, and everything else that I can touch, measure, and count—they are all designed to make my life in this planet easier. Even this very computer that I am using in writing this article makes my tasks more efficient and less tiring. In general terms, all of those things that I use inside my room are all tools—they are products of technology—designed to make lives easier and more efficient. I totally agree.

However, I am in constant quest as to why we want easier life instead of stronger one, instead of more significant, more meaningful one. Why? That part I honestly don’t understand. Is our physical world around us—the world that has already been conquered by artists and scientists—all there is? Is that all we have? If not, why focus too much in its mastery? Sadly enough, our society, with all its old and modern technology obviously suggests that that’s all there is—nothing more.

Society and its intricately woven parts

Stephen Covey’s books 7 Habits, The 8Th Habit, and Principle-Centered Leadership tremendously altered the way I see myself, other people and the society as a whole. As frequently as I reflect about my life, I am constantly reminded of my four dimensions as a person: my body, heart, mind, and spirit. No matter how much I concentrate on one dimension, if I stubbornly neglect the others, I won’t be a whole person, I won’t be complete.

The four dimensions are not exclusive for people. Organizations are like people in a way that every organization has its own unique personality, that is, organizations have body, heart, mind, and spirit as well. Societies are not exempted either. They are just bigger and more complicated. Societies, like people and organizations also have physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects. It’s just that they are more complex, maybe due to its size compared to a single person. It doesn’t matter whether one is a person or an organization or a society there is always a lingering pattern: they all have body, heart, mind and spirit.

What is the connection? When we say that technology makes our life easier, do we mean life as described through the four dimensions? Or are we simply succumbed only to the dimension that is seen, measured, and those that we can control—the physical dimension?

Technology is a tool. It is neutral. Meaning, we can use technology to make life easier; but we can also use it to make life miserable. It’s up to us. Tools are designed to be used in certain ways. There are always Do’s and Don’ts. Users should always be informed or sometimes trained on how to use a tool. Otherwise he may defeat the very purpose of the tool he’s using. Worse yet, he may hurt himself in the process. And even worse is if the consequence is delayed for years before he realizes that the way he’s been using the tool that he’s been using is all wrong . . . and then it’s too late to rectify.

What’s the point? The point is . . . technology is neither good nor bad. If it helps our physical life easier, that’s good. But if technology negatively affects the other dimensions—especially the emotional and spiritual dimensions—of our life, even though it tremendously helps our physical and mental life, then it’s counterproductive. It’s not just useless, it becomes destructive. No matter how much help technology offers us, if it pulls us away from being cooperative, ethical, conscientious, industrious, and GOD-fearing, no matter how much easier life may become, if it pulls us away from being integrated, from being whole, then it is not being helpful at all. We are being deceived by our own assumptions.

Look at what Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution did to the relationship between science and religion. How about Sigmund Freud’s theory about human psychology? What has science brought us in terms of peace, love, integrity, authenticity, respect, and ethics? Technology is okay—as long as it doesn’t destroy the other dimensions of our lives. World Wide Web is good as an information tool. But how does it affect the younger ones? How about other technologies like guns, nuclear weapons, nano technology? Technology is supposed to be neutral. But now many are not. They destroy our paradigms, alter our beliefs, refocus our values, and the saddest part, they paralyze our conscience. Do I still need to prove this claim?

How about in education? Many schools are excellent when it comes to academics but totally poor when it comes to humility and character. They are absolutely illiterate when it comes to bringing knowledge to their emotions. Remember, education is also a tool. If it helps us improve our mental dimension and yet destroy our emotional and spiritual side, what good does it do?

In Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey mentions Gandhi’s teaching about seven things that destroy us:

  • wealth without work
  • pleasure without conscience
  • knowledge without character
  • commerce without morality
  • science without humanity
  • worship without sacrifice
  • politics without principles

Howard Gardner, in his year 2008 book The 5 Minds for the Future, discusses the limits of science and technology. He says that,

“ … science can never constitute a sufficient education. Science can never tell you what to do in class or at work. Why? What you do as a teacher or manager has to be determined by your value system—and neither science nor technology has a built-in value system.”

Although he advocates about the importance of having a disciplined mind, synthesizing and creating minds, he did not undermine other parts. In fact he includes respectful mind and the ethical mind. Doctor Gardner strikes balance.

Response

A silent revolution is needed. A subtle but intense campaign is necessary. Leadership reproduction is a must. Why leadership? Because our societies have already been overmanaged. People have already conquered science. We are now full of knowledge and are continuously acquiring more. We have plenty of pleasure. Commerce is in place, and many have wealth (although most are in poverty). In the list of seven dangerous things mentioned above, we already have pleasure, knowledge, commerce, science, and politics. What we lack however are conscience, character, morality, humanity, sacrifice, and principles—all of which are products of good leadership.

I think we should not take for granted that the technology we are about to bring to the society may destroy other areas of our life. In that case, no matter how much help technology provides to our physical tasks, if it destroys our inward self, our other dimensions, then it becomes ‘counterproductive,’ ‘counterefficient’, and ‘countereffective.’

The physical world that has already been mastered by people through science and technology is not all there is. There is more. Our society has heart, mind, and conscience as well. We can continue to make some research for more advanced technology, but we must do so without sacrificing our conscience, our character . . . without neglecting humanity, ethics, and principles. In other words, we need to strike balance. And I am convinced that leaders are the ones we can count on in providing that needed balance.

Can We Manage Science?

When I answered the posted question in our Discussion Forum about my understanding of the concept of CREATIVITY, and whether creativity can be managed or not, I accidentally provoked a somewhat unexpected almost violent reaction from a devoted classmate—devoted only to her paradigm—and blinded to others’ perspectives. At first, we just went circling around unclear premises. Fortunately, the discussion went very interesting and, I believe, very healthy as well, and even attracted other classmates who claimed to have learned and were enlightened somehow. Thanks to the challenger, the dialogue stretched us both!

In that controversial discussion about whether creativity can be managed or not, I delivered a quite unpopular approach by stating that, “CREATIVITY CANNOT BE MANAGED,” while at the same time explaining how it can be managed. Although the entire argument revolved around the idea that indeed creativity CAN BE MANAGED, I intended to state the opposite . . . to give emphasis on H O W creativity can be managed, that is, management is not done directly to creativity. Rather, if we want to manage creativity, we need to concentrate on its ENVIRONMENT and not to CREATIVITY itself. In other words, it’s the environment that fosters creativity that we can effectively manage. By ensuring that the factors that make creativity possible is what CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT is all about.

In this similar topic—CAN SCIENTISTS MANAGE SCIENCE?—I would like to take a similar approach, but with a little twist. I would argue here that yes, SCIENCE CAN BE MANAGED. And then at the end, I will challenge the very notion I have just established.

Science . . . and Arts

In my previous understanding, SCIENCE and ARTS are two different things. Sometimes I see them as a dichotomy—many things can EITHER be only art or only science. They are opposite. Now I understand there are also more abstract cases where both arts and science coexist. One example is leadership. For me, LEADERSHIP is both an art and a science. Another one is LOGIC—the art and science of correct thinking.

While leadership and logic are both art and science; management in general is mostly science. Also, while creativity is more than an art than a science, its management is more of a science than of an art. Therefore in my post about creativity, I argued that creativity and management are opposite. Here, however, I argue that science can be managed in a sense that both MANAGEMENT and SCIENCE are in the same end of the dichotomy. They are both sciences.

In simple and unelaborated way, science, according to my Encarta Dictionary is a SYSTEMATIC BODY OF KNOWLEDGE. In simpler terms, SCIENCE IS KNOWLEDGE. Now, substituting the synonymous terms in our topic, I would say that yes—SYSTEMATIC KNOWLEDGE CAN BE MANAGED.

Extending further, I consider that knowledge is a tool that we use every day. In that sense—SCIENCE AS A KNOWLEDGE, AND KNOWLEDGE BEING A TOOL—yes it can be managed in some degree.

Managing the evolution

Science has dramatically evolved in the past decades and is continuously evolving today. It didn’t evolve on its own, and it is not evolving on its own today. Science has many branches. We call each branch as a discipline. These diverse disciplines collaborate with one another to MANAGE the evolution of science. We manage science through CREATIVE research. BIOLOGY continues to evolve. This evolution affects the evolution of medicine. Simultaneously, PSYCHOLOGY is also continuously evolving thus affecting also the evolution of both BIOLOGY and medicine and probably other disciplines. ARCHITECTURE’S evolution is affected by the evolution of ENGINEERING which is in turn affected by the evolution of our knowledge of ELECTRICITY, CHEMISTRY and other disciplines as well. Our knowledge in chemistry, as it evolves, also affects the biologists’ knowledge in biology.

Science is one whole big body of knowledge of many branches that are somehow interconnected. Management of one branch affects the other branches. In other words, continuous research in one branch affects other related branches.

Science as a knowledge . . . as a Tool

As knowledge—a systematic body of big knowledge—I believe we can manage science. We don’t need to be scientists to manage our own knowledge. Some are disciplined in the field of medicine, some in architecture, some, in the science of Marine Engineering.

Marine engineers can of course manage their own knowledge in the science of marine engineering. Those engineers on board international vessels continue to be part of the evolution of this branch of science. New discoveries in PHYSICS affect the science of engineering. On board, the engineers continue to catch up to new technologies—modern machines they never thought possible before. Now however, facing the facts, marine engineers need to adjust. They need to manage their own knowledge about this specific knowledge (science in marine engineering), or else, they will be left behind.

Scientists in the maritime field continue to manage the science of marine engineering. And a lot of factors that they consider in their researches are those factors that come from the reports of the actual marine engineers on board, these engineers who keep on adjusting their knowledge just to catch up. As they manage the engine and the entire engine department onboard a vessel, they make lots of analyses and syntheses. These activities are always logged on in official record books. (Now they already have modern computer software that will do some parts of the analyses and syntheses.) Copies of these records are sent to the owners of these vessels and or other authority for continuous study. This will then be the basis for the new research. After the research, implementation follows. Installing of new and modern machines on board the vessels forces marine engineers to take special training and advance their knowledge of the marine engineering science as well. It’s a cycle between the engineers and scientists.

All of these happen because both the scientists and the ones in the field are successfully managing not only the science of marine engineering but science as a whole. As I have said, the branches are interrelated. Our discipline is benefiting from the science of ELECTRICITY and CHEMISTRY.

But . . . let’s think again

Although we can manage science in many aspects, there are areas that we cannot truly manage. Ironically, although science gives us easier life, it also threatens that easy life to end sooner, quicker. In medicine, the invention of pain relievers tremendously affects the psychology of many individuals. We no longer appreciate the gift of pain. Because of these pain relievers, we now tend to condemn PAIN and avoid it as much as possible without ever realizing that pain helps us survive. It affects our attitude.

Modern household technologies make us lazy and make us prone to complain. Because of those technologies that promote speed, we forget the virtue of being slow. We want everything fast and instant. Beauty products that are product of chemistry and biology continue to change how we perceive BEAUTY. Even software like Photoshop distorts our perception of beauty. Natural is no longer natural.

Modern science also brings us problems, dilemmas, and chaos beyond imagination. The wars, modern crimes, new diseases, and unpredictable weather are mostly products of the “successful management of science.”

That’s the irony. We tend to isolate science from arts and other areas of life even from our spiritual life. We tend to look at the past and consider all advances in science as success without realizing its negative effects in other areas of our life. Because of this, we are now in great danger. Global warming is just one, but this is global. It is affecting the entire planet. This global warming, a clear and present danger is just the product of so called DECADES OF SUCCESSFUL MANAGEMENT OF SCIENCE. My personal conviction tells me that if we are truly in control, we will be able to stop instead of aggravate these problems. The whole world is an INDIVISIBLE  WHOLE. We cannot manage just one area (like science) while neglecting other areas like our values, ethics, spiritual growth, relationships, and many other areas in our precious lives. We need to integrate all these into one. We need balance.

If we truly believe that we can totally manage science, we better think again.