1 Nov 2016

Technology will not save us

Technology can be used to overcome many obstacles. It killed distance by letting us speak over phones or fly to distant cities. It saved lives by bringing new medicines and techniques. It made us rich by multiplying our labor output.

But technology cannot overcome "human weaknesses" that must be addressed by changes in our habits, beliefs and instincts. Those can only be changed by introspection and analysis, combined usually with some formal rules of behavior. That process explains our "civilizing progress," but its challenges and setbacks reveal how difficult progress is.

Just 6 months ago (give or take), I wrote how we humans could use the daylight savings time disaster-of-a-policy as a test case for reforming our international systems of governance, thereby making it easier for us to help refugees or tackle climate change. If we could fix that silly, self-imposed confusion, then who knows what we could do!?

But this weekend, I noticed that the clocks on our computers had changed* and thought: Hey, maybe technology (or the internet of things!) would eliminate my confusion every six months. Could we use technology to fix up climate change? But, no, I realized. My wall clock didn't notice the sun coming up "earlier," and I didn't really get an extra hour of sleep. I don't want to know how many other habits, systems and agreements were jostled by our self-imposed "jet lag."

Bottom Line: Technology is excellent, but it's not a solution to human problems. We still face greed, violence, and stupid rules, so we need to make sure we develop our people skills to match our technological advance.

* Note that yours may not have changed. (DST is worse than you think!)

1 comment:

StewartDompe said...

Another way to argue it would be that technology can solve engineering problems but not governance or institutional problems.

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