Technology, broadly defined as the use of tools, has a long history. Ever since Erg the caveman first conked an animal with a rock, people have been using technology. For thousands of years, the use of tools allowed people to move ever closer together. Because fields could be cultivated and the technology to store food existed, people would live in cities rather than in small nomadic tribes. However, in the past centuries, both the development of technological tools and the uses to which humanity has put them have created modern civilizations in which loneliness is ever increasing.
The Industrial Revolution deprived people to a large extent of the pleasure of communication during work. It is true that the revolution introduced and spread technologies that mechanized many tasks and saved people much labor, but as a result of the drive toward more efficient production and distribution, people began to act as cogs in the technological machine. Clothing was no longer produced by groups of women sewing and gossiping together, but by down-trodden automation's operating machinery in grim factories.
The new technology of today, computers and the Internet, pushed people further to the abyss of loneliness. Truly, they have made work ever more efficient and knit the world together in a web of information and phone lines. The world has been made into one in which Erg need not check in to his office; he can just dial in from home. He won't need to go to a bar to pick up women because there are all those chat rooms. Hungry? Erg orders his groceries from an online delivery service. Bored? Download a new game. And yet……However, many people, myself included, are a little queasy about that vision. Erg may be doing work, but is it real work? Are his online friends real friends? Can he really enjoy this solitude?
Actually, since the Industrial Revolution, we have been haunted by the prospect that we are turning into our machines: efficient, productive, and soulless. The newest technologies, we fear, are making us flat as our screens, turning us into streams of bits of interchangeable data. We may know a lot of people, but we have few real friends. We have a lot of things to do, but no reason to do them. In short, the new technology emphasizes a spiritual crisis that has been building for quite some time.
To look for a bit more balance between technology and life may be need. We have to tear ourselves away from the fatal distractions and go out into the world. Technology has given us long lives and endless supplies of information. Now we need to apply that information, use the time we're not spending conking our dinner with a club, and find our reasons for living.
Do you agree with these?