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The yin and yang of tech evolution

In this guest post, TR member robw2205 questions the implications of the fast-paced evolution of technology. Do you think technology will one day outgrow mankind?
This guest post was written by TR member robw2205.

Technology - the very word strikes fear into the hearts of some and inspiration into the minds of others. The speed at which our ideas are thrusting us forward into previously unchartered waters is almost breath-taking, and yet, at the same time, one wonders if we may be close to creating a Frankenstein that we will no longer be able to control, or, to a lesser degree, what if our enemies program their technology to outsmart ours? Will the world of the future belong to those who have best co-opted new ideas, tools, equipment, and even weapons to their advantage?

By definition, technology is the harnessing of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry. Accordingly, the first technological advance may have been the discovery of the wheel or the usefulness of fire or the plow. The evolution of ideas to improve or create something that better facilitates or assists someone or something else is a more abstract explanation of technology, one that is rooted in the creative thinking processes within the human mind.

According to the History of Technology, both Homer and Hesiod considered the "spoken word or manual craft or cunning skill" to be technology at work. Later, Aristotle would coin the Greek term "technologia" to refer to scientific knowledge, theoretically, practically, and productively. Today, the concept of technology seems to encompass both the thinking skills and the practical tools that humans use to solve a problem or serve some other valuable purpose.

It would seem that no area of life is immune from technological applications and, sometimes, complications. We now know that certain behaviors, such as smoking, overworking, and eating too much unhealthy food, can make us sick. This presents us with new decisions that may not always be in keeping with our natural desires. We have the ability to see life developing within the womb and the moral dilemma of what to do if that life seems less than perfect.

Globally, technology has successfully shrunk our world. Business that might once have taken weeks or months can now be conducted in minutes. Exposure to increased information has made competition stiffer among advanced, wealthier countries, but developing nations are also beginning to enter into the world game. In some ways, technology has "democratized the opportunity to be rich," both individually and corporately.

Technology itself has become big business, with entire companies devoted to the development and marketing of technological advances. Education, health, science, personal and business communications, and government are just a few of the fortunate recipients. Many complicated jobs once painstakingly done by hand are now completed with a keystroke - or soon will be. The tedious task of medical billing is quickly moving toward a streamlined, technological solution. But even enjoyable activities, such as shopping, are increasingly computer-based.

"Technology today is so prevalent, so sophisticated, and so powerful that most of us no longer ask ‘what is in the box?' ... but rather ‘what can it do for me?' (give me directions, play games, feed the dog when I'm home late)..." says Tracy Delphia of Channel Research.

Will technology outgrow mankind? Have we opened a Pandora's box without understanding the possible consequences? Yes, we now have the technology to blow the world apart or decimate entire populations with chemical warfare, but we also have a chance to cure cancer and heart disease and to drive safer cars and produce better energy.

According to Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, "The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don't really even notice it, so it's part of everyday life." Perhaps we can even learn to use technology to fix our mistakes.

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

18 comments
pet_xxx
pet_xxx

technology is heavily used to drag people to fun and deception. never trust it 100%. It could be useful, but it often lies to us. We can't do without it, but we can easily be fooled. Just use it an be careful - someone is trying to live unaware of human relations. Just go out with friends and talk in person, not by Instant messengers or phone. Please don't lose personal contact.

deepj
deepj

Quite honestly after a lifetime immersed in technology, it just seems like deeper and deeper forms of entertainment. I think I am ready now to see some deeper forms of happiness and truth.

wendygoerl
wendygoerl

Discussion about the growth of technology always reminds me of this article I read about radioactife adaptation: Scientists zapped bacteria colonies with radiation. Some mutated into a state that seemed to flourish in the radioactive environment. Some just barely survived. The interesting part is: several generations later, the quick breeders died out, leaving the petri dishes to the variety that barely survived. Not only do I see a correlation between radiation and technology, I think the ones that "barely survive" are getting wiped out by the "quick breeders," leading to eventual extinction. Also, I beg to differ with the "democratization" provided my technology. I play a lot of Ages of Empire, usually against three or five computer opponents that usually end up banding together against me. I rarely have the biggest army, but almost always have the most technologies. Often, I'm the only one with a positive kill/loss ratio. Technology allows fewer people to control more. Technological "haves" can operate with less regard for technological "have nots" than any other have/have not situation. A government that can enforce a large enough technological disparity between its own "priveleged" technologies and those it allows its citizens need never fear an uprising or revolt.

Old Timer 8080
Old Timer 8080

Think of what the atomic scientist said when " The gadget " worked according to plan. We opened that Pandora's box..and we don't even have HOPE to help us these days. ( WARNING: A PERSONAL OPINION FOLLOWS ) Especially since the thing in the White House perverted the meaning of HOPE.... Technology has far outstripped mankind's ability to use it wisely.... The irony was made very evident in Japan...where that technology was first applied in the name of WAR... Add the present ARROGANCE about MAN MADE Global Warming.... Anyone with proper intellectual maturity will look at the fact that we sit between two fires....which are much larger than anything MAN can create.... Remember that mankind is just a newcomer in the actual timeline of things that have existed...and new " discoveries " are found every day...

jck
jck

Tech has been exploited rather than using it to facilitate broader good, e.g.- we've used it to define personal identity: social networks, personal websites, blogs, et. al. The internet used to be about information exchange, sharing of scientific analyses, etc., but now it's turned into one huge, profit-driven, gossip-filled melange of shallow and uncontemplated thought and action. About 30 years ago, I was a hacker. I used to sit with my friends using modems to get into systems like universities, public government systems, etc. We never tried to get in to change files and gloat. We just went in to see what we could see, and to look at what was there. Then, we left. No modifying things. No breaking file systems. No doing remote shutdowns commands. Nothing for "lulz". So, I don't think technology is bad or good. It can only be used either way. And it seems so far, people are really doing a piss-poor job of utilizing tech to grow communities, knowledge, research and other gainful advances...and instead using it to talk about their new haircut, flooding servers offline, and other things that apply to the "me" nearest them. My only hope is that there is some "yin" to this bastardizing of a great resource that, like many others, humanity seems content to abuse rather than utilize.

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

was not the working title that was submitted by TR member robw2205. And I hadn't heard of Technocracy. Thanks for the info, Spitfire!

santeewelding
santeewelding

I went through it again. It is, still, unrelievingly transparent. I hope the deal was that originators had to carefully vet the piece; that it could not evidence commercial collusion -- no way, no how -- to the unpracticed eye, in order to publish as-is, which it looks to be: paid as-is. Must be that we are unpracticed. Winks his unpracticed eye.

Spitfire_Sysop
Spitfire_Sysop

Wow, have you ever heard of the Technocracy? Their symbol is the yin-yang sign. They were formed out a group of oil execs that were tasked with predicting peek oil and the end of federal oil reserves. These men formed a group whose purpose was to spread the idea that we need to carefully balance technology and nature due to the simple fact that our technology could destroy important parts of nature. Seems obvious but try telling that to the other oil execs who fired these guys! http://technocracy.org/

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Would you please clarify what you mean by this: "Today, the concept of technology seems to encompass both the thinking skills and the practical tools that humans use to solve a problem or serve some other valuable purpose." Thanks Also, isn't it supposed to be Yin?

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

would have been more helpful than your comments here. Just sayin'....

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

...encompass the thinking, skills and the practical tools... Would make even a little sense like that - but the last part sinks it; vagueness overload.

santeewelding
santeewelding

My canon, or yours; kept, or loyal counterpoint. I'll stay rabble opposition; unkept and unkempt.

bboyd
bboyd

A thinking skill, math of all kinds, philosophy even writing are all technological. Like any tool they have Yin (destructive force) and Yang (creative force).

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Made me think, "a take on editing like this"

bboyd
bboyd

We are the driving force behind our doom.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Ascribing the force to the inanimate... smells like the projections of a guilty conscience. Fact is, the yin-yang : we're it. Nothing inanimate is.