Friday, March 30, 2007

Tech me up baby

I was planning to put up the first issue of my comic Comikier (you can see it at, logically I should be able to make a link of this but angelfire is doing some wierd stuff to me), but circumstances intervened, instead, I'm putting up this essay on technology which I wrote a while ago and I thought it was pretty cool so check it out.

Technology is a force that often exceeds human control. Even when it is a tool that dwells in the hand of its user, its effect on its user can be hard to predict. In the last twenty thousand years or so, technology has grown by leaps and bounds at an ever accelerating rate. This has given society tools of immense power and these tools have changed society greatly. Within these tools are the potential for loneliness but also the potential for a greater community. Technology has helped forge a global community with greater communication and transportation. In addition, it has allowed larger populations living closer together. However, technology can also bring immense freedom, and in freedom lies the potential for great loneliness.

Technology has brought people closer to each other by means of communication and transportation. Communication technologies have advanced to a state which would have been regarded as magical a hundred years ago. Cables and sattilites carry information around the world allowing people seperated by thousands of miles to carry on real time communications in the form of telephone calls, emails, IMs and more. For most of history, the majority of people would have trouble communicating a hundred miles away. The people who lay outside the narrow world of the village were regarded as strangers, completely alien to the people of the town. In addition, people who needed to move would have to sever relations with their relatives. Modern communications has changed that. Now communities can be formed among millions and across huge swaths of land. Communities like this can take the form of nations, they can also take the form of online interest groups, as well as many other varied forms. This communication is bolstered by improving transportation. Transportation technologies have also improved greatly. Before the car, seeing a relative across the country was a risky and lengthy venture generally best avoided. Before the horse, travelling a city away was something only the brave endevored. But with modern transportation technologies people can meet in person despite great distances. Transportation technologies have shrunk the world, making everyone closer.

In addition to living closer metaphorically, technology has enabled people to live closer together physically through cities. The modern city is a technological marvel. It relies on an economic system and on infrastructure that enable thousands, even millions to be fed and to have sanitation in an area that is relatively miniscule. Without the technology the city relies on, a population the size of New York that did not farm could not have been supported. In addition, without modern technology it would be difficult if not impossible to contain and remove all the waste New York produces. Cities rely on technology, and cities have brought people closer together. A person living in the city can meet thousands in his lifetime. A person who visits a city regularly can meet hundreds. By contrast, a thousand years ago, cities were much smaller and people met fewer people. The density of cities bring people into contact more and more as it becomes possible to bring more people into the urban environment. And yet, despite this increased density, it is still possible to refuse the company of others.

Refusing company has become easier than ever because of technology. The freedom technology offers has made people more able to ignore each other, and this can lead to an increase in loneliness. Technology has allowed people to do more with less effort. While the overall economic system technology has produced has made us interconnected, the ability to do more with less has reduced the need to ask for help. Historically, people might need help to entertain themselves, now they turn on the tv. Before they would need help to get rare herbs, now they can order it over the internet. There are greater opportunities than ever for meeting people, through the online world, the telephone, community centers, etc. But all of this takes effort, and if one chooses to minimize all effort, it is perhaps easiest to avoid people and the attention they require. Increasingly this is possible due to the power of technology. The power of technology has the potential to bring people together, but it also has the potential to keep people apart.

Technology has brought people closer together by creating new methods of communication and transportation, as well as giving people the ability to live closer to each other. Yet it also gives freedom, which allows the user of technology to keep away from society. But if society places a high value on community this can be overcome. If people are convinced that community matters then they can use technology to move closer together and communicate more with each other. If technology is properly used, it can create a global community with all of humanity living with each other as neighbors.

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