What Technology Is A Force For Good?

Much of the conversation surrounding emerging or existing technologies often focuses on worst-case uses. But what are some of the ways technology can be used for improving the future?

There have been many warnings surrounding Artificial Intelligence, or A.I. From job replacement, to increased potential for spreading misinformation, to accusations of plagiarism or even intellectual laziness, the dangers are many. Warning bells have come from a variety of different sources, and some predictions are quite bleak, indeed.

Existing technologies can also have negative consequences.

The Internet has only been in use for a few decades, but some blame it for the increased polarization throughout the world. Misinformation and propaganda seem to spread more quickly than facts and logic. Social media platforms keep us in our own echo chambers. It is easier to find and target people for scams, and conspiracy theories abound. It is a far cry from the educational potential the Internet initially had.

In fact, you can go all the way back to the start of the industrial revolution to see the seeds of our current climate crisis. The burning of fossil fuels made production and distribution cheap and easy, but a warming planet is an unintended side effect.

These are all examples of technology introducing or exacerbating problems. However, there is no doubt that our world has used our growing mechanical know-how for good occasionally. Can you think of some examples of positive outcomes that come from science and engineering advances? And in what ways might the emerging technologies transform our world for the better?

Related questions: What role does technology play in your life? Is technology neutral? What skills have you lost due to technology? Why does social media often bring out the worst in us?

How Do You Deal With Uncertainty?

Being in an uncertain situation can be extremely frustrating. Is there a way you have learned to deal with uncertainty?

Human beings, generally, feel more in control — and therefore, more comfortable — the more they know about something. In fact, that urge has been behind much of the development of science and technology over the last few hundred years. Wanting to know more, about how the world works and ways to modify it, is something that comes naturally to our species.

While this is true at a societal level, it is also true at an individual level as well. The more information we have, the more in control we feel.

For example, someone who has been diagnosed with a disease will often learn everything they can about it. Even very complicated systems, like the stock market or the political realm, people will study in great detail, trying to gain an edge.

In reality, knowing more does not always confer an advantage. So-called experts do not have a better record predicting the future than anyone else. There are plenty of examples of a basketball novice finishing ahead of a diehard fan in March Madness brackets, for instance.

There are certain times and certain situations that are completely out of your control. In that case, what do you do? Can you learn to embrace the uncertainty? Or instead, are there methods to feel more in control of an inherently uncontrollable scenario?

Related questions: What is unknowable? Why are we fascinated with the unknown? How do we know what we don’t know? Why don’t you know what makes you happy?

 

Look Back Or Look Ahead?

With January 1st just around the corner, are you more likely to look back and review the year that is ending, or look ahead to what the new year might bring?

Share why if you wish.

Look Back Or Look Ahead?

Should We Try To Predict The Future?

Despite many thousands of years of practice, human beings are mostly unable to predict the future. After failure upon failure, the question arises: should we even try?

From big events to trivial ones, we humans are really inept when it comes to divining what comes next. There are some very basic things — the sun will rise tomorrow — and that’s about it. Jobs are unstable. Health issues can arise at any time. Marriages fail regularly. And of course, the farther out in the future you go, the less certain things get.

Admittedly, as our understanding of the universe grows, some predictions come easier. For example, scientists can predict with great accuracy solar and lunar eclipses.

And yet, even science has its limitations. Predicting exactly when a particular breakthrough will or will not happen is an exercise in futility. Science is, inherently, an exploration of the unknown, which means that progress is inherently unknowable.

None of this stops us from trying to predict what comes next. From taking your umbrella with you when you go out for the day, to selecting the numbers for the lottery jackpot, we can’t help but guess what will happen next.

A lot of time, effort, and money is spent regularly on prognostication. Insurance companies have armies of actuaries. Pundits get paid to sound confident in their predictions of the next election, even if they were completely wrong about the last one. Meteorologists use the latest in cutting edge technology in forecasting the weather.

Could all this time, effort, and money be put to better use? Would our lives be better without the constantly mediocre attempts to predict the future? Or is it the case that our efforts in that direction is what drives us to learn? To make new discoveries that can make our lives better in other ways?

Related questions: What is time? How much does your past determine your future? How do you plan for the future? What is your five year prediction? Ten?