Does Technology Make Life Better (The World A Better Place)?

I recently had a debate about the answer to this question with a friend. We never settled the conversation, of course. These big questions rarely have simple answers but I would like to take a moment and delve into my thoughts on the subject.

Yes.

That pretty much sums up my view on the matter but perhaps I should explain.

Technology has consistently made life better – much better. When considering this question you must first consider technology throughout the course of history and not just very recent advancements. Thousands, perhaps even hundreds, of years ago Humans spent much of their time just like any other animal; trying to survive off the land. Any day could be your last, literally. A simple flu virus could wipe out a family. Consider the following technological innovations and how they would impact a family long in the past and to this day:

Antibiotics (saving lives from bacterial infections that routinely laid waste to people of all ages)

Mass production of food reducing the amount of toilingdoes-technology-make-life-better in fields and foraging for food to live on

Mass communication allowing for social connections across the globe. Obviously the benefits for mass communication are anything but trivial.

Over the course of time, people have become an extraordinarily efficient species. We now spend next to no time looking after our most basic needs (safety, food and shelter etc.) and instead spend more time meeting higher needs (love, esteem, comfort, recreation). Many people take for granted how great life is today but this is only because human beings live with “relative mindsets” in that they only know what they can compare to. Put any of us back several hundred years and we would struggle – a lot.

A common argument is that, although first world countries benefit from technological innovation, the poor do not. This is a fallacy of course. Although members of first world countries are often the first people to enjoy technological developments, it does not mean that the poor are not made better off. In fact, although conditions in Africa are still abysmal to this day, conditions have certainly improved as we are now able to offer aid to these people whereas in the past we were not. In the past (before mass communication) we wouldn’t even know that their living conditions were bad – and even if we did, there was relatively little we could do to help if we were spending all of our time trying to survive off our land ourselves.

Some of the biggest advancements in technology that have helped third world countries have been advancements in crop yields. Through technology we are able to increase crop yields to allow more people to live off the same amount of land. This both accommodates the world’s growing population and allows impoverished communities to improve their living conditions – even if only slightly.

All of the above things I’ve mentioned focus on how technology has benefited us on a basic level. I have not even begun to scratch the surface of how technology allows us to visit parts of the world we would otherwise not be able to visit (via an airplane) or the miracle of the computer (historically beyond-imagination). It is as if we have gained the ability to use magic.

Try going back 1,000 years and show them an iPhone. If they don’t declare you God, I would be very surprised.

Warning: you may be declared a wizard or witch and killed on the spot

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5 thoughts on “Does Technology Make Life Better (The World A Better Place)?

  1. I don’t necessarily Agree with you David.

    Does Technology make life better? I believe that this is very subjective.

    Technology is a tool and when used can help and/or hinder the quality of life.

    Emails: For example the “I love you virus” from a few years ago used “email technology” and rendered people’s computers useless.

    Facebook has expanded peoples networking pools but has played a part in 20% of the divorces filed this year. Broken friendships, loss of jobs etc.

    Think of the internet like a hammer. It can nail a nail through a piece of wood to construct a home but can also nail a nail through your hand and end your career. The technology itself changes the routines of our life but depending on how it’s used can help or hinder the quality of your life.

    Machine guns – they say these are for safety…
    Loud speakers – for music enjoyment (can make you go def)
    Monsanto seeds – Engineered seeds used in India for crop growth caused infertile land which caused many farmers to commit suicide due to stress (not being able to pay off their debts)

    1. 6 months later, a response! 😛
      I agree that, like everything in this world, there are downsides. Technology is not perfect and in the wrong hands or for the wrong purposes, it can do harm. However, I argue that technology has caused much more good than bad. The number of lives modern medicine – powered by technology – has saved is inconceivable.
      Although technology has changed some aspects of life for the worse, it has also eliminated a lot of the manual miserable work and processes of the past. Sure, sitting in an office all day sucks. But it beats working long hours in the field. Sure, some countries still live that lifestyle, but technology is helping even some of the poorest countries by increasing productivity. In places where the quality of life is poor, technology has still helped. Think about those saved by vaccines in 3rd world countries. Many more are saved then if they were left on their own.
      To sum it all up, technology has done so much for us that if it were to disappear tomorrow a good portion of the world would shortly die and many would be left unable to adapt to the undeveloped conditions that existed before technology.

      1. I agree that technology has good aspects and bad ones but i think that the number of jobs in the world has been substantially decreased by technology by eliminating the jobs done by hard hand labor. Do you think so.

    2. I completely agree with you Shawn, to make life easier technology is a very complex and appealing thing to people. technology as Shawn said is a tool which make life better or miserable, judging on how people use it

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