Posted by: suekenney | July 22, 2011

Yes…and No

People are too dependent on technology: agree or disagree? Explain.

This is a highly appropriate topic, considering that half the USA is in the midst of a nasty heat wave, and grid usage hit an alltime high yesterday.  AC’s and fans are flying off the store shelves; cooling centers are new favorite destinations.

And that’s just one small aspect of technology.  There are computers; cell phones; microwave ovens; traffic lights; all manner of things electrical or electronic; cars; jet skis; elevators; cash registers — obviously, my list could go on and on.  It could go even further depending on how far you want to extend the definition of technology.

Not quite a mile down the road from us lives a family of Amish farmers.  They don’t use electricity or electronics; they don’t drive cars or trucks; they won’t use internal combustion engines; they don’t have phones, even the old-fashioned rotary dial landlines.  They don’t want to use anything “modern” — and yet they too use technology.  They have horse-drawn plows and harrows: not your latest John Deere, but certainly well beyond the sharpened sticks used by our remote ancestors.  They run a saw-mill; they have a well-built, insulated house.  They wear clothes that may look old-fashioned to most of us in the USA, but were manufactured using technology of some sort.

Technology can be as simple as a chipped flint arrowhead; or as complicated as the Hubble Space Telescope.  One dictionary I looked at defines technology as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes.”  That covers a whole lot of territory and doesn’t need to be limited to the latest and greatest thing from Steve Jobs or Mitsubishi.  Scientific knowledge doesn’t have to “belong to” someone holding a PhD in quantum mechanics; it can “belong to” a five-year-old discovering that a plant needs water and sunlight to survive.

All that being said, let’s get back to the original question:  Are people too dependent on technology?  My answer is a resounding YES!  and NO!  If we decide we can’t live without all the latest electronic fads and our AC’s and microwaves, then I think we’ve overreached our dependency.  But if we make do with what we have, and keep our minds open to the opportunities for even the simplest solutions — then we’re not so dependent.  And every practical thing we do can be said to be technology — just using a stick to dig holes in the garden for seeds; or piling stones to dam up a stream; or dipping our cupped hands into that same stream to get water for a drink.

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