Computers were supposed to make everything faster. Automate processes. Increase efficiencies, and assist building equity in human capital by providing more leisure time and simultaneously paying people more.
Has technology kept its promise?
By all rights, 50 years into the computer revolution we as a nation and people should expect our lives to be better in many substantial ways due to the advances in technology. Yet as we survey the corporate landscape in America, we see little evidence of actual gains through technology.
Sure, we can point to increased production and efficiencies. Is that always necessarily good? Computers enable people to make mistakes, faster. Think about that for a moment.
And besides simple "business gains," what are the actual tangible gains in human terms? Are employees happier, or are they working just as many hours as in 1960? You know the answer to that; we as a people are working longer hours and with greater stress than ever.
Are employees happier overall, and are their lives improved?
This is a gray area, to be sure. Many enjoy what the gadgets bring: instant connection to everyone who partakes. By this measure, we should all be feeling more connected to one another and less lonely, right? Ha.
Actually technology tends to isolate people rather than bring them together, like a digital umbilical cord keeping people in a bubble. Isn't it ironic that technology that is supposed to unite us, actually promotes separation by encouraging us to interface over longer and longer distances, and using bits of metal and plastic for the interactions? What happened to the warmth of a handshake? Something is getting lost in the digital revolution, and it's in the intangible, and arguably more important, realm of our lives.
What about all the fancy shmancy speed of the technology; surely this is making the world more efficient, right? Can anyone point to studies showing the increased production and sheer extra volume of goods, services, and foods, are actually being circulated to those in need? Is the human family as a whole benefitting from the excess, or is the wealth being concentrated by those in position to take advantage of the windfall?
Again, this answer is obvious; the human family as a whole is not reaping the benefits of the technological advances, as evidenced by similar or worse levels of poverty, literacy, living conditions, and general conditions of peoples throughout the earth.
Then, perhaps, is the planet better off for the increased production? Again, ha! Nooo, the planet is hurting, possibly getting a temperature, and for sure getting filled valley to mountain with more trash than ever before.
What about the potential of the human brain: surely we are getting smarter and smarter every year, and children are benefiting greatly from exposure to all this marvelous new stuff, right?
Well, er, sort of. Actually what I've read shows that we think differently, not necessarily better, than before. We have greater capacity to multi-task because, surprise, we're constantly bombarded with the need to process so much at once. But this comes at the expense of the ability to really concentrate. I'm not sure that scattered is better than being focussed.
What about social skills? Are computers and technology enhancing these? Evidence indicates that our new silicon taskmasters don't have hearts, and our capacity for human understanding, compassion, and love are not enhanced by any significant degree by our technology.
I could go on and on. The basic, simple question is, what are the actual real benefits of this technological craze we are in? Are we honestly better off with the technology than before?
One can always argue that the technology is not the problem; it's the biology operating it, and this is a truthful point. Technology is neither good nor bad but in the hands of its users.
So the jury is out. We can do more than ever, but the current results are that we as a species are not better off in tangible ways, en masse. In short, technology is not making the world, the planet, or people as a whole, better off; in fact many are worse off and we have the makings of a technorati that control the rest; how is this different than those in power making the world better for themselves at any other time in history?
With great power comes great responsibility. 'Nuff said.