Technology is no panacea. It's helpful to be sure. Necessary for socio-political and economic growth. Essential for the eradication of disease and illiteracy even. And quite possibly a saviour of sorts as we protect the world from disasters comprised of environmental and human like concerns.
Believe me I'm no Luddite. I use my blackberry often, I log on daily and I do understand the utility of a good tool in my toolbox. I benefit from the fruits of applied science and I take a ground breaking biologic medicines, but like many others I'm a little suspicious of the techno-global fix.
For every door that our industrial and scientific prowess opens I believe it closes a few others. This World is anything, but flat. Friedman was a little off in his pronouncement it seems to me. If we're not careful the Lexus will indeed choke the Olive tree. With any kind of advancement come other relevant and sometimes pernicious outputs and their implications.
I remember visiting a small rural community in Cambodia. We had just traveled up the Mekong River in a tiny aluminum boat. I was feeling alive and free. The setting was glorious. And the sun was shining. I was surrounded by red fire ants, and managed to escape the effects of a white flesh buffet and was thrilled to get my sandaled feet onto the red, clay, and muddy shore. I slipped my way up the embankment and the first thing I saw was a rusty old water well - installed in 1997 and no longer in use. Poor needs assessment I thought. Possibly improper follow up with the locals. Maybe not enough capacity building or maybe the villagers just didn’t know how to use or why they should use the wells. I’m sure the donors would be thrilled. As we made our way through the jungle community we continued to come across well after rusted out well. Why weren’t they being used? My inclination was to blame the donor NGO or the local partner.
As I later found out responsibility did not lie in the hands of any of those I had considered, but more in the water content. Arsenic - flowing into the river from about a thousand miles away thanks to Chinese industry. Cause and miserable life changing effect. Progress should never be assumed to be a step forward, without considering how many, if any steps back or sideways might be taken.
TS Eliot in his prophetic poem, Choruses From The Rock, asks the questions, "Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" An important notion as we move into unchartered territory ethically and from a technological and developmental perspective. Knowledge is not always and necessarily a good thing.
Change is happening every day. The question is: what kind? What are the implications for example of advancements in nano-technology? Smaller mobile phones? GPS units the size of a watch? Wireless networks that actually work? How though will this also affect those in positions of power who for the most part may be up to no good? Smaller surveillance cameras, tiny explosive devices, cluster bombs that look like yo-yos? Another door opens and swings shut at the same time.
What might we be missing? What haven't we seen? Look closer.
We may connect over the internet. We may lobby, protest and gather according to the new and unwritten rules of face book. We may even protest via twitter like blurbs of 140 character driven definitive and political statements, but can we examine our lives and the technology that has become an extension of who we are on a daily basis?
Asking the right questions about where we’re heading will bring us closer to a clearer understanding of who we are, how others matter and what’s next.