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.