At the heart of human progression throughout history lies technology and the advancements we have made as a species. Technology is responsible for the majority of change in our recent human history and the improvements it has brought to our standard of living is highly evident in areas of education, health and medicine, economic growth and communication. But are we doing as well as we should be doing? No. And those who say we are probably in a tiny percentage of people who directly benefit from our current state of social and economic disrepair.
Probably not. Firstly, I would like to dismiss the somewhat common and conservative cliche that the world and the youth of today is in a ‘worse state than ever’. An antiquated and inaccurate sentiment that is often perpetuated by older generations who have a tendency to cling to the rigid ideals they have been taught since childhood. This fond and often stubborn reminiscence of the past and a simpler way of life is seen in many of the older generations, but it must be taken into account that their values of right and wrong are quite outdated and not based on fact but rather a nostalgia of a world that is familiar and easily comprehensible. Despite this perspective being inherently corrosive towards collective human progression, I will concede that it is an unsurprising attitude to have – one that is expected and has been seen perpetually in older generations.
However, with the exponential growth of technology many aspects of human life have been improved and enhanced and are often overlooked. And while I feel that these technological advancements are not being utilized even close to their full potential (or with the right intention for that matter) there are many examples of its assistance to maintaining a better collective existence for human. Racial segregation, the oppression of minorities and the harsh class dichotomy that once dominated society is at an all time low, with the world expanding and being in a more tolerant and multicultural state than ever. Poverty, though still prominent, is decreasing and has halved in recent decades. The number of unaccounted murders and deaths from disease is also at an all time low, with the Internet ensuring that many injustices that would have previously gone unnoticed, are brought to the public eye, creating a forum for like minded individuals to interact and collectively unite.
The list of things we should thank technology for is endless, and the misconception that the world is becoming worse day by day, at least on a level of human mortality and well being, is evidently false.
Whilst we can look at these improvements to our lives and tell ourselves that we are doing just fine, there are other things to consider. In an age where more people are educated, informed and conscious than ever, can we really accept that we are doing enough and that slowly but surely the world is becoming the place we want it to be?
Many of the problems that cripple true human progression feel dauntingly insurmountable with no viable solutions on the cards. This notion suggests that the real problem lies not within the political campaigns, which are paraded before us, as if to give us some semblance of hope and provide an entertaining distraction from the real and structural corruption that pervades our power systems and the world we live in. Albert Einstein stated that, ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’ and I think at this pivotal point in human history this rings truer than ever before.
If real change and revolution is to happen I feel it will need to be one of the conscious mind and spirit before anything else – the ideals we hold as innate must be evaluated and altered in order for substantial forward movement to occur. Western individualism, while providing many desirable aspects (personal choice and freedom, an increased sense of self, and higher priority placed on an individuals happiness), has, in many ways gone too far. At the core of it, these benefits and outcomes of individualism seem like steps in the right direction for attaining a Utopian society where we are free, safe and happy.
However one must also take into account that it is a brutally capitalist and profit driven society that us Westerners find ourselves in. Accordingly, harsh and impassable limitations are placed on substantial positive change when the society and its institutions and structures are so focused on personal ambition and gain and the maximization of profit over all else – suggesting the desperate need for unity amongst human beings and an increased sense of collectivism.
The violation of human rights and the widespread exploitation of the environment and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds is prevalent and is a direct result of the cut throat capitalist society which is at the very core of today’s injustices. It has been shown that just a fraction of the money spent on things like national security, military, and advertising could easily ensure enough food and water for the earth’s population.
Climate change is a pressing issue at the moment, and the way we are handling it as a whole is exemplary of our misuse of technology and the restrictions we live within as a result of being so divided and money hungry. Wind and solar power has been a clean, viable option for many years that is becoming increasingly inexpensive. If our species shared a collective goal of serving the greater needs of humanity (perhaps we need an apocalypse-esque or an alien invasion scenario for us to realise that we are all of the same consciousness and essentially in this together), these technologies could be used to combat pollution and climate change swiftly and efficiently. If the money that countless privatised corporations (who are competing against one another) put into things like coal mining, nuclear power and oil drilling were used on solar, wind energy, and other natural forms of energy, the possibilities would be endless and utterly unfathomable to the common person (The cost of covering our largest deserts in solar panels barely compares the amount spent currently on coal, nuclear and oil).
Similarly, mainstream news outlets, be it print, radio, tv or online are an invaluable resource that are being used for personal gain and financial agendas. Imagine if mainstream news outlets presented more factual and unbiased accounts of the state of affairs, advancements in technology and endeavoured to expose corruption and injustice. Instead it is predominantly owned and run by private business that has obvious agendas of maintaining the status quo and gaining profit. It could become an enlightening and powerful tool that worked in congruence with the maximisation of utility for human beings everywhere, as opposed to a mind control device which permeates prejudice, ignorance and fear for all things that do not fit in to corporate agendas.
Technology is supposed to allow us to work smarter, not harder, and despite all the amazing advancements we have at our disposal, we work 9-5, five days a week and many of the problems we face as a species do not have a promising solution. But perhaps the powers that be, the corporations who make certain technologies available to the public want this. If you work more, you inevitably spend more in the short time you have for recreation – a phenomenon that is key to the smooth functioning of the consumerist machine. Certain technologies, ostensibly, help us in everyday life, but behind the facade of the gadget craze is planned obsolescence, a common technique that harms both the consumer and the environment – with the sole purpose: to keep us spending more and working more.
Every few months there is a new smart phone or device to replace the old one. It is slightly improved and has minimal and often trivial modifications to it that deem it ‘a newer, better model’. This cycle however is perpetual and it becomes clear that these companies are not providing the best product they can but rather slowly releasing technology to the consumer, with new operating systems, charging adapters, and software, often rendering a device just a year old as obsolete. The same goes with most electronic devices. Things like memory sticks seem to lower in price dramatically every year with the cost being just a fraction of what it was 5 years ago. This is not because scientists are slowly, month by month finding out how to produce memory sticks more efficiently and with more space, but because they want to maximise their profits from a product which they have had advanced models of long ago.
Apple uses proprietary screws which means you cannot open the device for a battery replacement or a quick repair. Similarly the average laptop life before breaking is about three years, a common technique by companies to ensure the maximisation of long term sales profit. We may own many devices and gadgets that are seemingly necessary and beneficial to our lives, but by buying into the perpetual cycle of the technology craze, the question arises- Who owns us?
We have advanced since medieval times and are doing substantially better than 30 years ago. But at this point, with the technology, knowledge and resources at the disposal of so many of us, it simply isn’t good enough – provoking the question of what really needs to be done for humans and society to move forward?
Robin the Hood