9. Technological Hope
Posted by Environmentalism 101| 18 Aug 2015 |
The expansion of civilisation has lead to gigantic leaps in modern technological breakthroughs and advancements. Modern technology has become the ‘fix it’ method for all of the greatest issues plaguing humankind and Planet Earth. We naively invest hope that technology will solve every issue. Our ideas of progress are synonymous with our developments in technology, believing that there is no problem technology won’t be able to fix or solve in time.
Forms of technology vary from the development of language and tools for collecting food, all the way to harnessing electricity and the computing power of smart phones. Technology is essentially the variations of applied knowledge that enable different objectives to be met, which were previously unattainable due to various biological, intellectual or physical limitations. Technologies are just the varying tools we use to solve created, real or perceived problems. Since technology has such a broad reference, to better understand technologies we will separate them into modern technological tools, such as those present within a civilised society; primitive technological tools, such as the basic tools of primitive humans and intellectual technologies such as language which require no materials for their usage.
Technological tools are not new concepts to humankind, nor are they exclusive to human usage. Many species use various forms of primitive technological tools in their day-to-day activities, such as apes fashioning sticks into spears to hunt smaller primates, sea otters using rocks and stones to open up clams and birds using plant materials to build nests. Technological tools are the aspects of an environment that are purposefully manipulated to fulfill a need for any organism. The difference between modern technological tools used solely by civilised humans and primitive technological tools used by both humans and other species is that the modern technological tools lifespan has become destructive.
Primitive tools such as sharpened rocks, wood spears or bows were all manufactured by materials that were easily accessible, available and non-pollutive. Once the sharpened rock was too blunt to use, it was thrown away and served the purpose of being a rock, just as it always had been; once the sharpened spears or bows were broken or unusable they could be thrown away and would easily decompose. Despite the easy access of the materials used for primitive technological tools, primitive humans and other species were still limited by how many tools they could acquire based on immediate need, physical capabilities and the presence of the materials for construction, where as the creation of modern tools have few to no limitations in their procurement, construction and are waste creating. Modern technology has given rise to machines that extract previously inaccessible materials and machines that build new technological tools. Few to none of the modern technological tools used in a civilised society can be created solely by human physical capability.
Modern technological tools have taken a life of their own and it is the lifespan of technology that is seldom taken into account when looking at the value of technology. We only place technology’s value in the limited period for when it fulfills a need or desire. We ignore its procurement, construction and end usage. The procurement, construction and waste created by each modern technological tool are hugely destructive both to environment and to the humans who are involved in mining the resources and constructing the technologies. The most ironic situation, yet to be fully addressed, is how modern technology itself is to address the problems it causes.
As mentioned with the belief in clean and renewable energy, any system that provides no exchange with the source of its materials or resources, or a system that creates waste of no value to other species is essentially an unsustainable system and any unsustainable system is bound to create more problems than provide solutions.
If we choose to ignore the destructive and unsustaining lifespan of modern technological tools, we are still faced with the reality that these modern tools primary objective is to serve the needs of humans as priority over other species. No modern technology is designed to benefit the needs or desires of other species, unless that species is of a secondary concern to human interest. No other species require modern technology to thrive and the implementation of more technologies will provide no value to other species nor can it solve the environmental issues, as technology in all its forms is not vital for life.
After a few thousand years of the usage and implementation of modern technological tools, no grand solutions have been achieved. Species extinction is escalating, the economical and social gap between the wealthy and poor grows, as a species we are the most diseased, depression and inequality is rife amoung humankind, war continues, hunger prevails and human rights violations continue. Out of all the grand issues that challenge humankind and other species, what is technology actually doing, besides providing a powerful distraction and false perception of progress?
Most of the modern technological tool usage has either amplified our destructive path or is used to counteract the destructive impacts of other modern technologies, just as we have machines building machines, we also have technologies solving issues caused by other technologies.
Part of the civilised modern technology is the breakthroughs in modern medicine, whilst applauded and seen as vital, these breakthroughs are a clear example of technological advancements being used to solve the problems caused by other technologies or humankind. Infectious, poisoning, immune and auto-immune diseases were relatively non-existent prior to the domestication of animals and establishment of civilisation, yet modern medicine claims its value as the cure for these diseases, even though these diseases were caused by the actions of humankind. The majority of trauma related accidents such as car crashes, gunshots, and stabbings are all related to the usage of modern technology. Since the expanse of civilisation, we have become more diseased and more injured and to claim the value of modern medicine without addressing the reality that we are the cause of our disease and injury, conjures a sense of hypocrisy – any species that is the cause of its own demise cannot be labelled as progressive or very intelligent, regardless of the technology utilised.
We will eventually have to face the question of what technologies to support and what technologies to leave behind. To decide what technologies stay and which go, several factors will have to be taken into consideration, including the total lifespan of the technology; how destructive the technology is in prioritizing the needs of humans over other species; is the technology accessible to all humans without specific advantages or disadvantages and whether or not the technology is implemented to solve problems created by other technologies.
Technology is not the sole perpetrator of destruction; instead modern technology is just the sophisticated tool of civilisation. Civilisation cannot be maintained without modern technology and modern technology cannot be created or utilised without civilisation’s infrastructure. Unfortunately technology and the growth of civilisation are held as the current defining points of human progression and it is difficult to foresee humankind willingly giving up their modern technological tools or dismantling civilisation. The projected outcome is that technology and civilisation will cause their own demise, based on their unsustaining methods of growth and biased support of solely meeting the needs of humankind.
Eventually we will collectively realise that all the breakthrough modern technological advancements are distractions from the core issues caused by human selfishness, human neglect and human will in upholding civilisation. Civilisation allows the advancements of technology and once civilisation is dismantled, we will have to adjust and adapt to the usage of primitive forms of technology that aid human survival and not enforce human dominance.