18 April 2006

part 1 of essay

As computers and other digital technologies have become more integrated into our every day lives, we begin to take the digital world for granted, and in many cases we choose digital over a more material form. Digital media has offered us ease of use, convenience, quickness, versatility, and in many cases is cheaper than the material alternative (especially if one already owns a computer). Digital cameras allow cheap, instant gratification when a photo is desired, instead of the old method of having to wait for a roll of film to be developed and printed. Email allows us to freely and almost instantaneously send our thoughts to anyone around the world who has the ability tof check email instead of having to write out a letter by hand and wait for the postal service to deliver it days from when you sent it. We have digital clocks that can receive a radio signal from the atomic clock and adjust the time accordingly. We can have our music wherever we go. We can watch movies or the news on our iPods. Technology is so integrated into our daily lives that at some point we begin to take it for granted not only as simply being present, but also as being a good thing in our lives. We should stop to consider how having these things around have changed the way we think, live, and interact – not every impact technology makes or has made is positive.

I'm not trying to vilify technology, though. Technology has undoubtedly made a huge positive change on human life – the wheel, irrigation, electricity, water filtration, etc. But these are not new technologies. What I'm more concerned about is everything from the industrial revolution onward, and in particular computers. But, still, I'm not trying to vilify the computer; I just want to be conscious of the effects of technology's use on myself and on others. To quote one of Seth's blog entries:

I am not denying the utility and benefits that computers have brought to my life, and many others, but I am rather recognizing that there are times when the computer does not benefit me. It can impair my health, keep me awake, waste my time, and reduce my interaction with other humans. So, I would like to minimize these things without denying that procrastination, games, and frivolous interactions can also be beneficial.

To further clarify, I believe that the technology itself cannot be good or bad, but only our use of it can be valued with words such as good or bad. Existence is beyond evaluative words; it is only in our perception of an object's or a person's existence that the evaluation of good or bad comes in. Existence precedes judgement; in the end, technology is simply what we make of it, and it falls to us to be responsible about its use. Existence precedes use; it is only when we are presented with existing materials that we can judge them and then either put them to use as they are, or else reshape the materials to fit the use we have in mind. In simpler words, technology's not the problem; the problem is us.