“If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment” said Michael Harrington in “The Other America”(1962). There is no doubt that technology has grown significantly in the last few decades since the development of the personal computers and the Internet. Some theorists have praised the future of technology as having the potential to free mankind from all constraints while others including novelist Aldous Huxley and director Stanley Kubrick, warn us of the dangers of technology particularly its possibility for mind control and conditioning as means for a utopia. There is increasing reliance upon computer technology in all facets of modern life within industrialized nations of the world and within a home. The majority of intellectuals, industry analysts, policy makers, and other interested citizens expect that little can be done to alter the progress of computer technology and so they ” just go with the flow” and there by perpetuate dependency. Have they realized of the dangers that hide behind this technological phenomenon? Do they recognize that computers have forced humans to develop a technological dependency while diminishing their individuality?
Supporters of computer technology love to support the notion that computers will be the single most crucial tool in future efforts toward economic development by increasing efficiency and the possible elimination of poverty. Computer technology is perceived by many to be able to eliminate traditional inequities of power and lead to equal distribution of citizenship. By this I mean that everyone regardless of position would be happy and stable in his or her society because technology permits the existence of stability. From Huxley’s Brave New World we can see how this reasoning could become a foundation for a future reform. “Stability. The primal and the ultimate need. Stability. Hence this” (pg. 31) says the controller as he refers to the technological advancements and all that was done to condition their citizens. He continues, ” and you can’t make tragedies without social instability.”(169) His statement is rather Machiavellian in that he sees stability as the ultimate end important enough to give reason to citizens’ conditioning and their loss of individuality and self-dependency. It can also be seen in Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, when a person is taught through technology to perform appropriately according to that society’s beliefs. In such case he becomes a technologically dependent human relying on the science of his conditioning to tell him of his wrongs and his happiness. This may seem like an extreme example of our loss of dependency to our technological systems but we have become so that our logic and reasoning have been skewed to work with computers. An example can be seen in the fact that this nation alone spent billions preparing for disaster that might arise from something as simple as how computers store dates. How is that for dependency? Technological dependency may be a great aspect for the future had it not come along with disadvantages? What is the longest step mankind is willing to take to achieve stability and worldwide happiness?
As technological transformations continue within an environment of increasing complexity and rapid advancement as can be seen today, there are concerns regarding disadvantages of our “wonderful” technological age: Reduction of the right to privacy, increases in techno-crimes, systems incompatibility, unnecessary complexity, planned old age of hardware, and increased interrelatedness between the user and the technology (and hence reliance). Privacy is a thing we treasure highly but as computers continue to grow our privacy is threatened and soon enough it could become rare. System incompatibility, complexion and planned old age refer to computer’s complexities that limit us from complete interaction between systems and each other. As we incorporate more into our lives the use of computers we become more dependent on their ability to ease work for us. We are then interrelated with a computer’s functions and rely on it to systemize our lives.
These are all potentially significant problems of concern but none as important as the human loss related to technological advancements. Yet if technologies’ social and political potency of technology is not taken into account, the best we can hope for is improvements in productivity or in addressing basic social needs that nonetheless lead to further reduction of community bonds, divorce from nature, individual purposelessness, and extending separation in wealth. By individual purposelessness I can refer to people who work in front of a computer in square cubical which has been scientifically proven to lower a person’s individuality by creating an environment where he or she feels too small to be considered indespensable. The cubical system is much like the components of a computer; many different commands placed together to achieve a related goal with humans as singular cells. How ironic is it that we become components the very same system that is taking our individuality away? How can that no make a person feel purposeless?
Contemporary technologies contribute indirectly to diverse social ills, and in subtle they hinder free will by forcing a dependency upon us. An example is the connection of technology to the loss of free will as seen in Kubrick’s film when the chaplain can see that due to the experiments the boy has lost all control of his human natures and became forced to function much like a robot. When a computer crashes or is unusable we are forced against our will to simply buy a new one or upgrade. One’s nature of will, and want, and purpose are taken away with contemporary advances. “People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get . . . They’re never ill; not afraid of death; . . . they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave”(169) Individuality, lost along with will want and our human nature. The conditioning of these people has taken away their human needs. The fear of death, illness and want are treasures in that they aid in our development and help us to understand some of life’s purposes Are these people really happy? They are conditioned to fell happiness unfortunately they cannot be happy they cannot experience any spontaneous combustion of splendor. By being striped of the characteristics of individuality and purposefulness we are drawn to become computer like and hence less human.
Fortunately, it is possible to envision alternative technological strategies and designs that, while still fulfilling vital economic and social needs, can also help sustain democratic community, civic engagement, and social justice. Thus the point is not to reject all technology outright, but rather to become more discriminating in how we design, choose, and use technologies.