Technology and Humans: Better Life Guaranteed?

Written by: Nathanael Lodwig Ananto and Wulan S. Faraditha
Edited by: Wulan S. Faraditha, Zania Putri and Ghafi Reyhan
Illustrated by: Abia Satria and Avroditha Nebula

Have you ever realized how important technology is to your life? What will our life be without technology? Despite its practical usefulness to our daily life, technological development has its drawbacks and could lead the society to greater inequality. 

From the outset, technological advancement has led us to address the world’s growing demand for a much more advanced society to assist and organize everyone’s daily routine. According to a notable economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, “Technology means the systematic application of scientific or other organized knowledge to practical tasks.” (Thierer, 2014). Hence why in this digital era, technology is developed for many purposes, like practical tasks such as education and work. These days, especially after the pandemic hit the globe, the matters of education and work can be done remotely, from home, cafe, anywhere we please through various softwares like Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx, et cetera. At the same time, businesses have grown up rapidly by relying on advances in technology, like the various digital based startups that have been sprouting recently. A set of examples, nowadays small traders on the street may be replaced with e-commerce online shop sellers while many on-site jobs are now being replaced by the work-from-home mechanism, mostly amongst start-up companies. Various jobs from light to heavy, especially in the production industry, are no longer done by humans, but by technology that we often call machines. In the car production industry, automation companies have been using advanced machines in their factories due to how efficient and time-saving the machines are. “The new day is on the way, and the “automation companies” are the midwives of the change that is a borning” said John Chamberlain (Hounshell, 2000). 

Beside that, communication itself is also no longer hindered by places because we can communicate with anyone at any time through social media, which is powered by the internet. We can easily know our surroundings and communicate with people from different continents within a blink of an eye. Communication to socialize with other people now can certainly be done in a short amount of time. “Significant, often highly communication and computation technologically driven, advances in day-to-day areas like health care, safety and human services, will continue to have a significant measurable improvement in many lives, often ‘invisible’ as an unnoticed reduction in bad outcomes, will continue to reduce the incidence of human-scale disasters.” said David Cake, an active leader with Electronic Frontiers Australia and vice chair of the ICANN GNSO Council (Stansberry, Anderson and Rainie, 2019). In the matters of managing data and finding information, it is also very easy to do. We can search for various desired information with just one click on Google and the results will immediately appear in seconds. Compared to having to go to the library and look for one book out of hundreds or even millions of books available for us to study, and still doesn’t guarantee we will get what we look for. Certainly this helps humans increase productivity and efficiency in using time. Making our lives seem to be inseparable from technology because technologies are created and developed for the future of humankind and to serve human purposes. 

Although various benefits can be obtained, technology does not always have positive outcomes for everyone and everything. Some of them can be obtained and bring setbacks for humans themselves. One of the cases is the ease with which someone can get information can make the brain’s ability to decline. Researcher Betsy Sparrow from Columbia University, New York, explains that the presence of search engines turns out to change the way the human brain works. “The presence of Google does make us able to store and get various information. However, it actually reduces our ability to remember that information,” said Betsy (Pappas, 2012). A real example of this is students, when they are asked about problem solving, some of them immediately look up for the solution on search engines like Google instead of trying to formulate and express their own thoughts. Hence why from time to time, the ability to remember can also decrease because the tendency to search and find the information from the internet is stronger than the desire to formulate and remember the information. Therefore, because it’s so easy for people to find information on the internet, this makes people less likely to remember it for a longer period of time because they feel like they can search it again if they forget, in which this could support the deterioration of their cognitive skill as people prefer to just browse the internet for the answer. Even so, there are many data leaks and mines that occur because of hackers or irresponsible people. To prevent this, it becomes more important to store private and important data in an official and trusted place and to know that it is everyone’s right to have and to be provided a safe and private data storage whether it is from the governments or third-parties.

Another case is social media. The existence of social media can cause various risks, one of which is the occurrence of cyber bullying that negatively impacts the mentality of its victims and incites them to self-isolate, feel depressed, and anxious. A 2017 study from American Journal of Medicine states that people with higher social media use were more than three times as likely to feel socially isolated than those who did not use social media as often (Primack et al., 2017). Other than that, a 2016 study from the National Library of Medicine also shows that people who had more positive interactions and social support on these platforms appeared to have lower levels of depression and anxiety, but those people who perceived that they had more negative social interactions online and who were more prone to social comparison experienced higher levels of depression and anxiety (Seabrook, Kern and Rickard, 2016). So, it is safe to say that if a healthy foundation of communication (treating people with respect, healthy discussions, willing to listen to other’s opinions, not leaving negative comments on someone’s post) is established on social media, it will help to build and preserve one’s mental health to a better state.

Another question I would like to answer is since the benefits may only be felt by the middle and upper class, would technological advancement also lead to greater inequality? For me, it might be. Since the existence of technology and its advancement widened the gap of inequality than ever before, those who cannot afford the appropriate device or internet bills and those who are less up-to-date due to limited accessibility may be left behind, unfortunately those people often originate from the lower class. In this digital era, if this goes on without supporting those who are the less unfortunate in our society to move forward with the advancement of technology, then technology can generate greater income inequality and bigger risks.

The easy and fast access provided by technology should not make us complacent. So how do we deal with it? Of course, some actions do need to be made. We should not take advantage of modern technology by making ourselves lazy when it comes to broadening our knowledge through the means of technology. In addition, we need to respond wisely to technological advances and as internet users, we should treat other people with kindness and respect to create a harmonious atmosphere among each other. In the case of cyberbullying that is rampant in today’s online spaces, we should stand up to the perpetrators and raise awareness that cyberbullying is a serious issue that should not be overlooked.

In conclusion, technology makes life easier and could lead to a better life. A lot of benefits could be acquired from the presence of technology, although there are also negative effects that we must be aware of. By understanding and knowing the various risks that exist, we can fortify ourselves from the negatives and build ourselves up with the various conveniences and benefits of technology. Therefore, it is important for us to create a better way of life for us and our surroundings by using technology to its optimal capacity wisely.

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