Technology - a dangerous dependency?

Technology enables us to do things that were previously unimaginable, and has certainly made many tasks far easier than they were before. But is also enables us to display previously unimaginable feats of stupidity.

It is possible then, that technology is actually holding us back as individuals, rather than propelling us forward. Or given its current omnipresence, could it actually be taking over?

A frequent and quite frankly depressing sight on the news is that of complete morons who have relied more upon technology than their own common sense. There was a case recently in which a woman blindly followed her satnav over 900 miles, for two days, before deciding to question it.

People have also become reliant upon technology for basic grammar, spelling and arithmetic. Last week I witnessed a PhysNatSci reach for a calculator to add 17 to 15. I'm not saying that they were unable to do the problem without it. But their first port of call should not be a machine.

This offsetting of tasks to machines isn't all bad. It's surely reasonable to allow more complicated, time consuming tasks to be carried out by a machine. This also frees up time for more subtle thinking that machines are (currently) unable to do.

However, we are now approaching the limit at which we can allow machines to make life easier for us by delegating tasks to them. Indeed it could even be dangerous to do so.

Certain tasks have major impacts that really do need human judgement before being enacted.

A striking example of this is the rise of autonomy in military robotics. Robots could one day, potentially very soon, make decisions on life and death. Such decisions arguably require ethics.

Recent developments in computing have led to robots that can learn and evolve new ways of tackling problems. This seems useful, but when one considers the breakthroughs made in 3D printing, where some could be capable of reproducing, you have a dangerous and volatile mix.

It may all seem like science fiction, but we must ensure we remain in control of what we create. And more importantly don't become too dependent upon it, as the legions of idiotic satnav users highlight so well.

Our dependence upon technology has developed at a startling rate – just think of how many people you know who fail to function properly without a smart phone.

These problems are all too easy to spot, especially in the student population, but in a world where we all could do with a bit more time it is easy to miss the transition from making one's life that little bit easier to a dangerous and costly dependence, and even a regression in human capabilities.

It may be high time to take a step a step back from technology to truly evaluate our position. We may well have taken the step from regular usage to full-blown addiction and dependence.

Robert Hart, first year Natural Scientist, Downing.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest