All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness. – Mark Kennedy
Humans have the natural tendency to be in control of their surroundings including other humans, animals and the environment. Moreover, as obvious from the quotation above, humans are always in search of simpler ways of doing things. From the early humans who controlled fire to the latest DNA technologies, everything has its origin in one of these fundamental axioms.
As humans are both good and bad, so are the things created by them. There is nothing noble or evil inherent in technology but it is the user of it which makes it so. For example, weapons were invented by the primitive humans to hunt the game as well as defend themselves against the wild animals. But through time, humans started using weapons against their fellow beings for more sinister purposes. And millennia later, the same is true for the modern human who is striving to manufacture the deadliest weapons which may well become responsible for the extinction of our species.
When we talk about technology the question of good and bad is not always black and white and there is so much grey area. Our socio-religio-political position and bias play a very determining role in our answer to this question. A technology may be an advantage to one person or a nation but it may prove to be a disaster for another person or nation. A case in point is the unmanned surveillance aircrafts also called drones. It gives a decisive edge to one nation by giving it the ability to hit certain targets while sitting in their offices thousands of miles away. But at the same time this technology is a nuisance for the affected nation which is badly affected by the use of this technology.
Problems abound, there are certain areas where technology is almost exclusively beneficial for the mankind in general. Examples are: electricity, modern means of communication and transport, medicines and food technology. The progress made in these areas during the last 100 years alone is mind blowing. With the advent of computers, the life on this planet has changed forever.
Airplanes, bullet trains and buses are some of the means available to modern world. It took Columbus 70 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean but now it takes just 6 hours by airplanes. Time saving is only one aspect. We should also take into account the immense savings in term of money and human health. One no longer needs to worry about the hostile weather or deteriorating health or worse the pirates, which were once impediments to the travel of even a few hundred miles.
The invention of computers and mobile phones has added another dimension to telecommunication. Gone are the days when messenger on a horseback would travel for weeks to deliver a message. With modern technology, messages can be delivered in seconds with a high degree of security and reliability. We can access any type of information with a few clicks from the comfort of our homes. Be it a business meeting or a family gathering, video conferencing is there to decrease the distance, making the world a global village in a true sense.
Diseases like malaria and smallpox which were once considered lethal are now treated within days with the help of modern vaccines and medicines. Diagnosis and cure is much more improved. Life expectancy is now higher than ever before. We are better equipped to understand human physiology and anatomy which in turn enable us to accurately predict the onset of a particular disease and helps in preventing an epidemic.
With the green revolution, man has achieved high yields per acre and developed new methods to make the barren lands arable. The explosive increase of human population has resulted in greater demands for food and other amenities of life. Food is transported from one part of the world to another within short time to cope with the increasing demands.
But all is not well. If we have green revolution then why are people starved to death in Africa and some other third world countries? If we have access to the best healthcare system in the history of mankind then why are people dying because of malaria and hay-fever while 2 billion people are exposed to hepatitis? If technology helps in achieving economic prosperity then why is the unemployment rate greater than ever before? Unless and until humans learn how to use technology for the betterment of humans, perhaps we may never find an objective answer to our question of whether technology is beneficial or harmful.