What Role Does Technology Play In Your Life?

Technology has had a tremendous impact on our lives. It helps us to be more productive, to communicate with others, to produce goods faster and at lower cost, and to escape the hold of our planet’s gravity, among many other benefits. In just a few short centuries, life has drastically changed due to the technology we surround ourselves with.

But for all the advantages that our technology has, there are also many drawbacks.

Example #1: GPS

Let’s take Global Positioning Satellite (GPS). GPS keeps us from getting lost, and using it couldn’t be much simpler. Plug in an address, and follow the directions. Any decent GPS will get you to your destination, oftentimes routing around accidents, road construction, or other obstacles. We spend less time getting directions, fewer hassles trying to read maps, and best of all less time being lost!

However, as it turns out, there is an advantage to getting lost. It may be less efficient in the short term, but it helps us to actually learn our local geography. Studies have shown that people who rely on a GPS for navigation do not retain as much knowledge of the route and local landmarks as those who navigate the old-fashioned way. And the difference is not just a superficial one, as the areas of our brain that are used for navigation can be significantly underdeveloped by constant GPS use.

Example #2: Plastic

Or what about plastic? Plastic was introduced just a little more than a hundred years ago, but now it is totally ubiquitous. We wrap our food with it, we carry goods in bags made from it, and everything from toys to life-saving medical devices use or are mostly made from plastic. The reason it is so useful is because it is inexpensive to make, it is lightweight, and it can easily be molded into whatever shape we want.

What it doesn’t do, however, is break down into constituent elements. This means that the plastic that was used to wrap your head of cauliflower at the grocery store will be in the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Every plastic water bottle, every computer or music CD, every plastic toothbrush we throw out will sit in a landfill, intact, for much longer than our lifespans. Or worse yet, make its way to a stream or a river, and eventually to the ocean. There are large islands of plastic waste floating in our oceans, where it is sometimes consumed by sea life while still not breaking down.

Example #3: The smartphone

One last example: the smartphone. Introduced just over a decade ago, they have quickly been adopted throughout society and are now considered indispensable. Smartphone owners use them for just about every aspect of modern life: work, recreation, exercise, entertainment, and communication.

However, it is not at all clear what the long-term impact of the smartphone will be. Our attention is fractured, our focus on reality is weakened, we are easier to manipulate, and we often feel less happy or content despite having and doing more. We don’t really have any idea what smartphone mean to young child development.

The common thread is that technology is a tremendous boon. But it also has problems that often go ignored or denied.

What role does technology play in your life? What technologies could you live without, and which ones are central to what you do or who you are? Are you doing anything to address some of the negative aspects of technology in your everyday life?

Related questions: What is technology? Can technology solve our problems? How have we changed? Are science and religion compatible?

5 thoughts on “What Role Does Technology Play In Your Life?”

  1. Toilet, sink, plumbing.
    Clothing and pockets.
    Tea kettle, French press coffeemaker, glass cup.
    Laptop, tablet, smartphone.
    Television, Tivo, Home Pod.
    House, building, skyscraper.
    Wheels, batteries, engine … car.
    Streets and car ramps.
    Keys and chair.
    Desktop and desktop.
    Screen, printer, paper.
    Electrical outlets to the infinity.
    More batteries.
    Nuclear power plants.
    Nuclear weapons.
    And the components of all of industry that make these things and more.

    Technology, the practical application of science, surrounds us.

    Some say that technology is neutral, its application is positive or negative. To which I say hogwash. Technology is almost always made for a purpose. If you accept roads and cars, you accept roadkill and car accidents. If you accept nuclear energy, you accept the extraction of its fuel as well as the long-term storage of its waste — as in thousands of years.

    I accept — or at least benefit from — all of the technologies above.

    Is my use of or benefiting from technology appropriate? I don’t know; however, I wish there were some gadget to tell me if this was so. What I do know is that as a world, we have considerably surpassed the consumption point at which the planet can replenish itself. That is, the planet as we use it is dying — and not so slowly, I’m afraid.

    This brings with it individual and societal responsibilities that nearly all of us ignore.

    In the meantime some great things happen. I can read books, because books exist as do the lights that allow my eyes to see the print when there is no outdoor light. And I can FaceTime chat with my co-collaborator of this blog on a weekly basis; he lives in Boston, and I live in St. Paul. And on, and on, and on.

    But I can’t escape the fact that I should compost and recycle more. I should buy more technologies for their durability as well as their capabilities. And, I should simply drive less and consume less.

    With each new technology, there’s a desire to want that more than what I currently have and serves me well.

    1. Michael, your list is interesting. Clothing? Pockets?

      My generation is pretty critical of things like smart phones – yesterday at the golf course, I saw a father more interested in his phone than watching his young son hitting golf balls. I wanted to tell him that his son is more fascinating that the stupid phone. In no time, the son will be grown and he’ll wonder where the time went.

      I have a flip phone. My daughter insisted we have one when we visit her in Chicago. It’s great when I want to keep in touch with someone. I also have internet access, which I love! (and spend too much time with). So that’s a challenge – to use technology without letting it use you.

      Happy Labor Day! Here’s hoping that people everywhere have work in which they can flourish, provide for their families, and give the next generation a better life.

  2. As Michael illustrated, technology plays an integral part in everyone’s life. I know that I benefit from technology every second of every day. Whether I am sleeping on my memory foam mattress with microfiber sheets, watering my raised garden beds with a plastic drip system and rubber hose or even baking homemade bread with dry yeast and an electric oven. We cannot function without it. If technology disappeared today, I think most of us could do without our computers, smartphones, TV and even our cars. But there are some things that are not possible to live without. Like life saving medications and machines and the technology used to create and run them.
    Technological advances have helped in solving a number of problems that we face, but for every problem we’ve solved, we’ve created several more. It’s an unsettling thought.

    1. Cecily, I appreciate your comments, especially the last few sentences. Yesterday I visited a young lady with advanced Multiple Sclerosis. Her muscles have weakened to the point where she is unable to feed herself, and has trouble breathing at times. Despite all our medical advances, MS and other diseases remain a mystery to the medical profession. Please say a prayer for her and all the sick and dying.

      I’m also sickened when I see tons of plastic polluting our rivers and oceans. I’ve seen some encouraging stories about people cleaning up the mess, but it’s not clear to me if we’re winning or losing the battle.

      Hope your garden is doing well. God bless.

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