Good or Bad: The Effect of Technology on Humanity

Oct 8, 2007

Technology has been at the center of human life since the dawn of civilization. From the moment humans discovered fire, technology has played a central role in shaping humanity’s destiny. Indeed, this role only grew in the passage of time, and today virtually every aspect of human life depends on or is influenced by technology one way or another. But while humans have relied on technology for thousands of years, it is not without its drawbacks. History has plenty of instances when technology resulted in death and destruction. The dual nature of its effects has led to a heated debate on whether technology is good or bad. On one side of the debate are those who believe that technology is a positive force that can bring progress; on the other side are those who consider technology as a negative force that can only lead to suffering. In response to this debate, this paper argues that technology in itself is neither good nor bad for society; rather, it is how humanity uses technology that determines its nature. If history is to be considered in its entirety, technology has for the most part been beneficial. It has allowed humans to progress in ways that no one in history could have predicted, including allowing early humans to leave the wilderness and establish civilization, conquering many of man’s oldest enemies, and enabling modern society to explore space far beyond our home planet.

One of the testaments to technology being a positive force is how humans have used it to establish civilization. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived as nomads. They formed hunter-gatherer groups that relied more on the resources readily available in their environment. Some humans would forage for food, while others would hunt wild animals. Paleontologists believed that such an existence was harsh and perilous. Not only were humans exposed to the elements, but they also had to fight wild animals and each other. Food security was also not guaranteed, as they had to constantly look for food to survive. They were never quite sure if they would find enough to feed everyone. But technology changed this once humans invented agriculture. They learned how to farm by studying the crop cycle and irrigation. They domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and horses. In doing these, humans were able to secure their sources of food. No longer did they have to wander the wilderness to survive. They could finally settle in one place where they could live in better conditions. So settlements started springing up, mostly in places where the land was rich and fresh water was available. Settlements became cities, cities became nations, and nations became empires. According to some estimates, humans had been leading a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle for 200,000 years before they invented agriculture around 10,000 years ago. When examining society’s transition from living in the wilderness to establishing civilization, one will find that at the heart of this crucial event was technology. It was technology that ultimately enabled humans to leave behind conditions that had lasted for hundreds of thousands of years. Agriculture is now regarded by the modern world as a commonplace technology, yet it was the spark that humans needed to take root and thrive.

Another proof that technology is a positive force is its power to conquer society’s oldest enemies. Studies show that the average human life span is getting longer. Researchers believe that life expectancy during prehistoric times was only a few decades. Early humans died as young as 30 to 40 years old. This range remained the same for the greater part of human history. As late as the 19 th century, it was not unusual for a person to die in middle age such as around 40 to 50 years. But all this changed because of technology. Furthermore, many children did not survive childhood due to health issues. As humans learned more about the world, they were able to come up with ways to conquer many causes of death. For example, diseases such as tuberculosis were once notorious killers. The bubonic plague that raged in the 14 th century resulted in the death of around a third to a half of Europe’s population. Infection of even the smallest wounds could end the life of even the healthiest individuals. But technology conquered many of these. Tuberculosis among with many other diseases now has a cure. Smallpox has already been wiped out from humans through vaccination. Most infections can now be treated using antibiotics. The vast majority of children born are expected to live full lives. Today, the average person is expected to live around 70 years or older, and scientists expect that this number will go higher as new technologies that can enhance health are developed. Technology has allowed society to live longer and more fruitful lives. Many of humanity’s oldest enemies such as diseases are no longer as deadly. None of these would have been possible if not for humanity’s pursuit and application of knowledge.

Finally, also proof of technology’s benefit is humanity’s capacity to explore deep space. Many people in the past probably dreamed of reaching the moon or even aiming for the stars, but perhaps only a few could have expected that this would come to pass. In the past century alone, humans have sent satellites to orbit the Earth, landed on the moon, and flown spacecraft far beyond our solar system. Humans have also developed telescopes that could view galaxies billions of light years away. Scientists predict that sometime in the future, humans will have advanced enough to send manned spaceships to distant reaches of the universe where humans can live in planets similar to Earth. All these efforts to explore the universe, however, are not merely due for the vanity or glorification of humans. Their more practical purpose is for humans to find a home. There will come a time when humans will have to leave the Earth, and thus the aim is for society to develop new technologies that will enable people to survive and flourish. This may seem like a lofty dream, but it must be remembered that many of the technologies that we take for granted today were also once only lofty dreams for those who came before.

There are those who would say that technology is bad for the reason that it has also led to death, destruction, and suffering. There is some truth in this statement. As history shows, technology has been used by humans to harm fellow humans, wildlife, and the environment. Humans invented weapons to wage war against each other, the incessant use of fossil fuels has contributed to climate change, and many inventions only resulted in the degradation of the planet. But these negative effects are not because of technology itself; rather, it is because humans use some technologies carelessly and without regard for the welfare of others. As the previous sections show, technology can bring so much progress if only humans choose to use it wisely. Despite everything, society still continues to advance through technology. Scientists still search for ways to solve old and new problems as well as challenges caused by other technologies. The fact that the world still moves forward in spite of some hurdles and setbacks is proof that technology is for the most part good rather than bad.

Though technology is a wonderful thing, it is true that it can also be quite terrible. History shows that technology has been responsible for both good and bad things. It is true that technology has its flaws, but for the greater part of history people have used it to achieve noble goals. Technology was behind the rise of civilizations. It is also technology that allows people to conquer many of its old enemies such as disease. Now, humanity’s future depends on the development of new technologies. The fact that some people utilize technology to cause harm should not be considered as reason to condemn technology as a whole. If only humans will allow wisdom to guide them in their lives, then technology can make the world a brighter place.

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