Technology Is Great, and Here’s Why

Lucas Elgin, Cactus Writer

This is a response to Nick Feldman’s article “Technology: Our Savior or Our Demise” that appeared in the November edition of The Cactus. You can find it on the newspaper’s website, I will go over the points mentioned in my colleague’s article, so it would be helpful if you read his article first.

The major weapons that were spoken of in Feldman’s article were nuclear weapons, the most well-known and destructive weapons we’ve ever thought up (except for super viruses, but those have never been used outside of labs). Feldman argues that weapons save lives by destroying enemies, which is not true. Nuclear weapons have saved more lives than they have cost, but not because we used them to destroy. They saved lives because they prevented wars, or kept them smaller than they could have been.

Think of Japan; the alternative plan to the atomic bombs was to do a full-scale invasion from the North by the Soviets and South by the Allies. It was expected to cost millions of lives on all sides. Instead, it was about 200,000.

Think of the Berlin Airlift, a moment of world tension at its highest when two sides repeatedly told the other, “We will not back down.” A situation like that is perfect for starting a war, and yet it didn’t because the Soviets didn’t want to get nuked, and the Allies didn’t want to face the Red Army.

Think of the wars of Korea and Vietnam. They were kept limited to just Korea and Vietnam because neither side wanted to a nuclear conflict that they knew any further escalation would cause.

And then we look at the other effects of nuclear weapons, such as nuclear power, which was created as a side effect of nuclear weapons research. Or going to space. Had nuclear weapons not deterred them, NATO and the Soviet Union would have gone to war and eventually proven which one was superior. Instead, they had to compete in some other way, so they raced to the moon. We owe one of the definitively greatest achievements in human history to the fear of the other guy’s nukes.

Another argument that Feldman makes in this article deals with curing diseases, and how we’re exhausting the Earth’s resources because we’re getting too good at not dying.

There are four major resources that are in danger of depletion: food, water, power, and space. As we continue to develop GMOs, we get better and better at making more food that can feed more people at lower costs, regardless of the morality debate.

With water, we have water purification technology. The actual loss through purification is exceptionally low, and it just gets recycled into the atmosphere and eventually rains back down anyway. We also have the technology to desalinate water. We can take water from the oceans and make it drinkable; it’s not even very hard to do.

We’re not going to run out of power either. We continue to find new and better sources at an almost unbelievable rate.

The problem of space – for shelter, agriculture, and whatever else – can be solved by building tall, literally in most cases, and by utilizing hydroponics, a way of growing crops without even using soil. The world may be only able to support 12 billion on its own, but we can increase that number if we try, and very easily.

The internet is the third and final issue discussed in the original article. Feldman acknowledges the paradox by stating, “social media allows us to connect with friends and family” and then later arguing, “Vines, YouTube, Facebook, all disconnect us from the people around us.” Thus, social media both connects us to our friends and family and disconnects us at the same time.

The article also states that the internet destroys our focus and overloads our brains because of access to unlimited information. It may surprise you, but the father of western philosophy, Socrates himself, used a similar argument against books. He claimed that the written word would destroy mankind’s memory since we could just write things down rather than remember them. Writing things down actually turned out to effectively aid one’s ability to remember. And if someone as respected and influential as Socrates could be wrong about books, maybe we could be wrong about the dangers of the internet.

Humanity is blessed above all other creatures on our planet with minds that can create and innovate, and to avoid using them would be tragic.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if technology didn’t exist? First, millions die in an invasion of Japan. Then, during the Berlin Airlift, war is declared, and the Soviet Union and NATO face off in a terrifying conflict. Polio is never eliminated as there is no vaccine; the flu remains a pandemic disease that can kill in the hundreds of thousands. There is no space race, as there is no money to spare – everything is spent on a global-scale war. Without the internet, we never learn about global atrocities, so there is no call to stop them.

So, I ask you, what do you think? Does technology help or hinder us?