5/15/2014

Technology: Helpful Servant or Harsh Master?

Having been born in the middle of the 20th century, I have used a lot of technology in my lifetime, but now I find myself holding it at arm's length, regarding it with a deep-rooted wariness. I grew up with radios, phonographs, stereos, televisions, and telephones, and I found those items, in most instances, to be both useful and enjoyable. (Although, to be honest, I was never especially keen on the telephone, whose shrill ring frequently struck my ears as a nuisance.) When I came of age during the second half of the past century, it seemed that technology was designed to enhance life, rather than to control it. In the 21st century, things are much different, and, to my mind, much more stressful.

It now is grimly apparent that, without many of us having any awareness of what was happening (we should have been watching more closely), technology has changed from being our helpful servant to being our harsh master. Instead of availing ourselves of new technology to make our lives easier and better, we have unwittingly fallen into a condition of abject servitude, becoming subject to the constant demands of technology, bidden to follow the mindless course that is set for us by the computers and, most particularly, the portable devices (those unholy tools of the devil) whose inhuman power has taken hold of our day-to-day actions. Technology moves faster and faster, maintaining a recklessly headlong pace, and we are obliged to keep up with it, whether we like it or not.

Capitalism is primarily to blame for the hurried ascendance of technology in the 21st century. Technology, it turns out, is a wickedly efficient accomplice to the foul activities of capitalist greed. Corporations slyly use technology, in all its surreptitious guises, to bring enormous amounts of wealth to themselves, always at the grievous expense of human beings (or, as they are more usually described by the grasping inhabitants of corporate boardrooms, "consumers"). In addition, technology allows companies to streamline their operations and dispense with thousands of workers (depriving them of their livelihood), which increases corporate revenues, but also does an injury to the common good.

We are rushing toward a harrowingly dreadful future, not looking where we are going, and it is unlikely that we will stop at the brink before plunging over the edge. We already have gone too far, with no thoughts of turning back. Young people of the 21st century, who have been reared with the latest technology all around them, and who have been purposely groomed to be utterly reliant on it, cannot imagine any other way of life. To them, using computers (and being subtly used by computers in return) is all they have ever known. They show no desire to mount a rebellion against the electronic network that carefully steers their lives. They are happy to be digital zombies, blankly in thrall to their smartphones, and with each new generation, it is certain to be worse.