Juxtaposing Humanity & Technology – Antagonizing or Synergizing?
“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.”[i]
Technology is the buzzword of the 21st Century. It has changed the contours of human life unparalleled in history. Right from the conception of human birth using medical science technology for delivery to the modern electric cremation techniques instead of ritualistic or traditional cremations, technology is omnipresent in our day to day life. There is hardly any sphere of life which is left untouched by technology. Even religion and spirituality which is intrinsically connected with man’s emotions and consciousness is not spared. Recently, in Ganesh Festival there was an automated Priest designed to carry out a ritualistic aarti! Many religious processions see the chanting of verses from scriptures done on a recorder, tape or even a Mp3 player. Using technology or apps you can find the direction of Mecca[ii] if you are traveling and pray accordingly in that direction. Through various online community groups, you can stay in touch with your Parish and Church community.
Technology is derived from Greek word “techne” which means art or skill and “logia” which means study. Thus, technology is the collection of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, and the like, or it can be embedded in machines to allow for operation without the detailed knowledge of their workings. However, this seems to be the standard definition of technology. Technology is something which basically reduces human efforts and labor either through machines or automations or by skills and designs. The invention of programming and computers has changed the perception of technology and has made it more subtle. So today, when we talk about technology it need not be just restricted to huge earth moving machines or oil drilling equipment, it can even mean wireless fidelity, artificial intelligence and semiconductors which form the backbone of any electronic circuit.
Technology does not necessarily have to be modern as perceived by many people. It even includes ancient inventions like the wheel and fire and agriculture techniques. As it is said nowadays, human life has become largely dependent on technology. We rely more on machines and equipment than on fellow human beings. Technology has not just replaced people and reduced jobs which may seem unviable from an economic perspective for us mortals but it also has usurped the emotional space of people. Having dinner with family and friends, long conversations by bonfires and community meetings seem to be things of past. We now socialize through social media, date through tinder and buy through online shops. That technology has changed our lives for the better and made it comfortable more than ever is undebatable, however, while offering those comforts physically we seem to have lost the human touch. A recent study has found that increasing wealth and technology does not increase happiness.[iii] On the other hand, countries which have shown the way ahead in technical know-how and entrepreneurship have people who are largely affected by psychiatric diseases. Recently, we saw a public spat between two tech giants Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk[iv] who weighed the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence. Top CEOs of some companies have even mooted the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) to be provided to citizens to compensate the loss of jobs due to technological advancements. Driverless cars by Tesla, workerless shops by Amazon and Google software with more accuracy than human beings have rattled the jobs industry. So, we have reached an age whereby machines which are inventions of mankind are themselves replacing men. The whole rationale behind the development of technology was to secure human convenience and make work easy for people, however, the stellar technological advances may have served the former purpose but along with it, they have collaterally damaged human resources. Can machines take precedence over humans? Can creation outclass creator? These are some issues to ponder over and act accordingly.
Many technocrats argue that technology itself is not good or bad, given that it has a specific purpose and is value and morally neutral. It is how it is put to use that determines its outcome and from those outcomes, its utility, and place in human society. It is unimaginable to fathom that technology can replace human endeavor as is feared by many. Even though in each and every sector like finance, military, science, research, history our dependence on technology is increasing it has not made human efforts and labour obsolete. A study has also found that growing dependence on technology has raised the risk of malfunction.[v] Innovation and novelty are driven by human ambitions and industry. Even though human dependence on technology is increasing it cannot outclass human industry as human beings are necessarily driven by consciousness and machines by a set of the programme. We need to think over where technology is taking us and where we see ourselves with technology in near future. Rather than letting technology draw the chart for our future we should take charge and chart our own path. Implementing technology as a matter of public policy in various institutions is a great step ahead. Given the success of “Digital India” and “Internet Banking” technology has great potentiality but on the other hand, it has made us vulnerable on numerous grounds such as privacy and cybercrime.
As Albert Einstein rightly stated, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. Technology is subservient to humanity and it should remain so. For every invention has its purpose and the purpose that it cannot have is to obliterate the inventor. Growing dependence on technology and its ramifications call for a much larger debate and public space than it occupies today. It is about time that we engage with technocrats and all the stakeholders involved in this industry. As the saying goes “As technology advances in complexity and scope, fear becomes more primitive.”
[i] Carl Sagan, American astronomer, and cosmologist.
[ii] The Qibla is the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during Salah prayers. It is fixed as the direction of Kaaba in Mecca.
[iv] Elon Musk is a South African-born Canadian American business magnate, investor, engineer, and inventor.
Author: Amar Patil
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article or any other publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Educoncours or its members.