The Geek Factor
We live in a society obsessed with, and dependent on, technology. In the past century, technology has provided us with far-reaching advances in communication, medicine, and business. Arguably, technology has created a tightly knit, global community with the advent of the personal computer and the internet. With technological progress in medical diagnosis, treatment and prevention, people are living healthier, longer lives. Technology has also completely transformed the workplace increasing productivity and improving the quality of work. However, our technological advances have come at a price. As Lynn White argues in his 1967 essay “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” man’s exploitation of nature (i.e. technology) has resulted in irreparable damage to our environment. Global warming, pollution, landfills, and radioactive waste are all current ecological problems that show that we still suffer from society’s materialistic and technological fixation. Not only has science and technology affected the environment, but it also has had far reaching consequences on the personal, interpersonal, and societal levels.
In our Christian worldview, technology appears to have good intentions. We have cell phones to keep in touch, cars to get us places, televisions to keep us informed, medicines to stay healthy, and the internet for entertainment, learning, and communication. Arguably, today’s society is living better than any other previous generation. Nevertheless, technology and our desire to be “geeks” can be considered a double-edged sword on an individualized level. On one hand, individuals benefit from technology by making them smarter, healthier, more productive, and even happier. On the other hand, technology can also make us feel dumber, less productive, frustrated, and stressed. Kristen Neufeld of the Daily Collegian writes, “Recent studies show that constantly being surrounded by technology might lead to technology-related stress, or ‘techno-stress.’” (Neufeld, 11). Lacking technological understanding, multi-tasking, and increased expectations are all considered factors of this “techno-stress.” The fact that technology keeps progressing among all of these negative consequences, is evidence that our society accepts and even desires more “gadgets.”
Interpersonally, technology’s double-edged theme continues. Technology can keep us “connected” with others at all times. Cell phones, pagers, e-mail, instant messaging, teleconferencing and voicemail are all recent advances that allow us to communicate with others anytime, anywhere. Technology, specifically computerization, has completely transformed interpersonal communication in the workplace (for better or for worse is debatable). The seemingly inescapable and addictive nature of voicemail and e-mail has led to businesses that secretly operate 24/7. However, as we enter into this “e-world,” many fear the absence of face-to-face interaction will have far-reaching negative consequences. Recent studies have linked internet usage with depression and low self-esteem. This is not to necessarily mean technology causes such behavior. Perhaps, individuals with depressive characteristics are attracted to such technologies. Nevertheless, it is unlikely technology will completely suppress real human-to-human communication any time soon.
The implications of a society rooted in technological progress are, as one would expect, two-sided. Because technology is the exploitation of nature, as technology is “consumed,” the environment suffers. This destruction of our surroundings is continuing at a torrid pace as technology keeps advancing. According to Lynn White, the impetus of technological growth is derived from society’s “implicit faith in perpetual progress” (1205). In other words, technology progresses because we believe it should. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, technology has kept steam rolling ahead, and only recently have we begun to realize the environmental and sociological implications of this continual change. White notes: “With the population explosion, the carcinoma of planless urbanism, the now geological deposits of sewage and garbage, surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such short order” (1204). Furthermore, technological obsession has profoundly affected society itself. Due to the “always on” nature of electronics, businesses can now operate 24/7 lending to a society that “never sleeps”. Most notably, our gadget fixation has created a “digital divide.” This separation between those who have access to technology and those who do not, has left those without at a real disadvantage in the real world.
From the time our digital alarm clocks wake us up, to the time our televisions put us to sleep, technology surrounds us. Technology, in essence, is an integral part of the American lifestyle. Trendy cell phones, checking email, and buying the fastest computer are all national obsessions. However, our technological addiction does not go without consequence. Arguments can be made that we are destroying our environment, dividing our society, and becoming too dependent on technology. Conversely, one can argue that technology is improving our surroundings, bringing society together, and taking humanity to ever-greater heights. Whatever the case, technology and its consequences are not likely disappear, or even slow down, anytime soon. For better or for worse, technology has changed our world, modified our behaviors, and shaped our minds.
Neufeld, Kristen M. "On Edge." The Daily Collegian 22 Oct. 2002: : Sci/Health 11+.
Lynn White, Jr. Science, New Series, Vol. 155, No. 3767. (Mar. 10, 1967), pp. 1203-1207. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0036-8075%2819670310%293 %3A155%3A3767%3C1203%3ATHROOE%3E2.0.CO%3B2-N