1.26.2009

"Wouldn't we be better off without technology?"

I've been posed this question rather frequently lately.

Wouldn't we be better off just focusing on a close community, face-to-face interactions, and localized problems?

It is an important question to think about because it quickly cuts to why we really need technology. I'm not so sure we have always been responsible or reflective enough (which, by the way, is a wonderful goal of the current constructionist movement in education). In the past, I've tried to create intricate responses, and they usually result in intriguing dialogue - conversations swaying back and forth - every counterpoint resulting in a "yeah, but... "

But the more I think about the question, the more I'm beginning to realize that I'm not so sure the question is relevant anymore. Just like the moment when Frankenstein emerges from the dark cellars to first experience light, I don't believe we can comfortably retreat back to the cellar again.

Consider the following story:

Suppose a prince is born in a kingdom with a magnificent castle - the walls are a thousand feet high. In fact, the prince has never left their luxurious confines. He has never felt hunger. He has never seen hunger. He never longs for the outside. He is hardly even aware that there is an outside. For this prince, privilege is the norm - after all, it is all he has ever known.

Photo by conner395

Does the prince have a social responsibility to elevate the poor?

It's easy enough to say, Well, of course. But I would disagree. Were 14th century Europeans responsible for the well-being of natives living in the Americas? No. As far as they were concerned, there was no America. As far as the prince is concerned, there is no poor.

Now suppose that one remarkable day, the prince goes for a walk outside the gates of the castle. He sees pain and suffering. He sees injustice and iniquity. He sees the raw nerves of humanity. Can he shut the castle doors with any finality ever again? Can he ever go back to the way that things once were?

I know that I am only picking on one dimension of technology, but it is central to the way we view our cellphones and laptops. Innovation is closely coupled to communication and information. Like it or not, I believe we have passed a point of no return with our technology. We have opened the dusty, crimson curtains and ushered the entire world into our living room - in all of its unshackled beauty and unspeakable horror.

So we need to stop asking, How do we pack up and go home? It just isn't relevant. "Home" has extended to every corner of the globe. What deeply troubles me is the new question: What do we do now that we're here?
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1 comment:

Atticus said...

Great Blog. Very interesting

Greetings from Spain