Point, Counter-Point: The Growth of Technology

Lily Baldwin

Technology connects, don’t act like it destroys

by Lily Baldwin


Illustration by Lucas Marchi
Illustration by Lucas Marchi

I can’t be the only 17-year-old who receives sporadic emails from their relatives with links to articles titled “How Technology is Ruining Your Child’s Life” and “Social Media is as harmful as alcohol and drugs for millennials.” And I can’t be the only one who reads those articles, rolls their eyes and goes back to FaceTiming their best friend. It feels as if every opinion about technology is expressed with a mourning sigh, accompanied by some pitiful explanation as to why social media and technological advancements are ruining young people everywhere. Yes, everything should be done in moderation and excessive usage of anything is unhealthy (that’s what excessive means). However, this deluge of criticisms young people are receiving is a cyclical pattern of older generations griping about how scary the future seems. It’s 2018, not 1984. We are not zombies oppressed by technology that constantly controls our thoughts and minds, as George Orwell predicted. Technology provides a chance to expand our minds and explore the curiosities of the world with easy access.

Flashback to 40 years ago: a teenager is lounging around her room, the curly tail of her phone cord dragging behind her as she chats with her best friend for what seems like forever. This is a picture we’ve all seen, whether it be the typical depiction of teens in “Sixteen Candles” or in the stories of parents reminiscing about their youthful years. The parents would call up the stairs and tell their kids to get off the phone, and the kids would roll their eyes, just as I do everytime I’m direct messaged another article about how detrimental social media is to my wellbeing.

Currently, many people under the age of 30 can feel the blatant cringing from surrounding adults as they pose for a selfie. I cherish time with my friends and my version of dragging a phone cord around my room chatting is even better: I get to see my friends’ faces, hear their voices and watch their reactions to the ridiculous subjects we talk about.

The growth of technology and the advancement of social media in the lives of young people is not something to be frightened of. According to a 2008 New Yorker article by Thomas Friedman, advancements in technology are the driving forces behind progress throughout history. The invention of the telegraph wasn’t scoffed at in 1844; it was admired and marked a turning point in communication for humanity. That’s what technology serves as and will forever serve as: not a sign of declining connections, but a mark of progress in communication and growth within the human race.

Shows such as the Netflix Original series “Black Mirror” may have you thinking differently. With an Orwellian attitude towards the use of technology in society, the show’s popularity is based off of its fear-mongering, convincing their audiences that young generations are doomed to a future of horror, completely controlled by technology and social media.

This kind of pessimism surrounding what the future holds is not conducive to a better, brighter community. In fact, it’s detrimental to the generations ahead. As we continue to plant seeds of dismay in young minds about how technology is allegedly ruining their social ability, we sequester them to a static world where progress is nearly impossible. Demonizing the betterment of technology is demonizing the advance of knowledge and communication, and, for centuries, fear is what has held back the human race from progressing into a more connected, more accepting time. Older generations in the 1920s were skeptical about the use of cars by young people, claiming to be concerned about the safety of their children and preferred things to stay as they were when they were young: at home, safe, protected. Nowadays, automobiles are an essential part of modern life, and without them most people would be bound to one location, just as without technology, we would be bound to preconceived ideas and limited communication.

I understand where parents are coming from, but I don’t believe a concern for safety is really the biggest reason older generations are apprehensive about their kids using social media. I believe that everyone is a little afraid of change, but according Roger Gil, a clinician for Family Intervention Services, as you get older, you tend to become more resistant to change. “When we experience the world or ourselves in a certain way for an extended period of time, we develop core beliefs that make up our paradigm for how life is supposed to be,” Gil said in a LifeHacker article about why older people are afraid of changes. “The experiences we have as children tend to be the most long-lasting and influential because they represent prototypical experiences that future experiences will be compared to and will likely play a key role in the development of our worldview/paradigm for life. As we age and our brains become less plastic, we encounter more difficulties processing changes because our paradigms are more ingrained.”

The future can undoubtedly be scary. Artificial intelligence has made a rapid growth within technology in recent years, with the invention of robotic machines capable of doing almost everything its human counterpart can do. However, there are innumerable reasons why it’s unreasonable to be so concerned about technology. A 2017 New York Times article points out that machines will never be able to replace humans, and we shouldn’t be afraid of the assistance technology provides.

“While humans can act from fear and anger, and be harmful, at their most elevated, they can inspire and be virtuous. And while machines can reliably interoperate, humans, uniquely, can build deep relationships of trust,” said David Seidman, CEO of LRN leadership and ethics company.

The progress technology has made isn’t something that should scare people, because a machine can never possess the qualities of a living, breathing, compassionate person. New technologies have merely created opportunities in fields such as science and medicine; the use of equipment like robotic prosthetics have allowed those who are physically disabled to gain efficient motor function that is necessary in everyday life. These kinds of inventions aren’t ones we should foresee as potential enemies. Machines can never connect on the level humans do, but they can help people make those connections.

It’s not that you shouldn’t listen to your parents when they ask you to put your phone away for dinner, or when they tell you to stop looking at it during a conversation. I acknowledge technology can be a distraction, and when overused it can prevent deep connections from forming through face-to-face interactions. But I don’t believe this is as prevalent as parents believe; to me, it seems they only see the negative side effects of social media because what they’re searching for is a reason to back up their concerns about the changing habits of young people.

According to a recent Bark survey, 68 percent of students self-reported that they believe technology and social media can be both detrimental and beneficial to society, and I agree. Everything has its pros and cons. However, the criticisms older generations have toward active users of social media creates an environment of animosity and idealizes an idea that you’re a better person because you don’t use Twitter. Just because someone didn’t grow up with our modern ways of communication doesn’t mean they’re more connected to humanity. To me, it’s the complete opposite. Social media is a way to connect with relatives, friends, loved ones and others you may not otherwise be able to keep in touch with. I wouldn’t have any sort of contact with my best friend from fourth grade if it weren’t for iMessage and social media. Through websites like Facebook, my family was even able to find an uncle I never knew existed that was discovered through Ancestry.com.

This is the first time in history that people of all generations have had easy access to multiple platforms to connect with creative, scientific, knowledgeable groups and be able to foster both professional and personal relationships that don’t rely on geography, ability or age. People are able to spread their ideas, and the use of technology is only raising the standards of how people think and learn. Lively debates about life in a modern world wouldn’t be so prevalent, and many wouldn’t be able to speak their voices without social media, such as the growing movement of young people motivated by the attack in Parkland, Florida. to speak out against gun violence. They’re creating real, tangible change that wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for their influence being spread through social websites.

Online platforms and social networking sites have given us the ability to make more connections than ever and don’t detract from real life situations, despite what your parents say when they see you on your phone. Technology is changing and advancing, and along with it, so are humans. It’s your choice whether you embrace the changes that time brings. You can either welcome it with open arms or argue it with strong intent. I urge older generations not to fear the future just because the past is more comfortable.

Robotic dystopian futures are not unrealistic

by Nate Charles

The growing use of technology in today’s society has sparked numerous reactions, from younger people embracing their smartphones and computers to older generations criticizing the overuse of these technological advancements. What is to come from all of this innovative upheaval?

Sure, automation of even the most mundane acts seems like a good idea when some engineer in a basement creates the next time-saving innovation, but at what cost? Every time a new gadget is created, the original pieces required to do the job are discarded, whether they be out-of-date apparatuses or modern Luddites. Then, in two years, the technology is updated or possibly even replaced.

Take Cadillac’s new self-driving car for example. It can operate completely independent of the driver and can be told where to go. Were self-driving cars to take over the streets of America, taxi and Uber drivers would become irrelevant. Additionally, by next year Cadillac will have refined the model so much that the current version will be ‘out-of-date.’ This creates a cycle of replacement in which robotics continues to come out on top, making me question how willing we are to thrust technology into our lives.

Our society has become so consumed by technology that everything we do relies either directly or indirectly on it. From talking with friends to even grocery shopping, we have become dependent on modern engineering in an unprecedented way. We’ve thought of so many ways to make life better that we even created machines that do the thinking for us, from artificial intelligence (AI) to cars like Cadillac’s latest product. CNBC wrote an article in which futurist (a person who studies the future and makes predictions based on current trends) Ian Pearson said AI will be billions of times smarter than man and that people may need to merge with computers to survive. Unfortunately, this may be the case. According to a study released by PwC, an accounting and consulting firm, 38 percent of jobs face automation by the year 2030, a higher percentage than those in other major countries like Germany, Japan and England. Computers haven’t taken over yet, but they are well on their way.

Amazon’s self-checkout store in Seattle, dubbed “Amazon Go,” was the last straw for me. Society has become so obsessed with innovation that we automated grocery shopping. Grocery shopping, people. The store has no workers, but rather a supercomputer that can tell when someone picks up or puts down a certain item. Picking up the item will add it to your “cart” and placing it back down removes it. Once you walk out the doors, anything in your cart gets put on a bill that Amazon sends you.

I have a couple problems with this, and the biggest one is a trend that has bothered me for a few years. As mentioned earlier, this new store features zero workers. Today’s job market is already extremely competitive, but when you throw machines into the mix there’s one more limiting factor. Automation of jobs has been taking place since cars were first being produced, but in a time where the DOW can change over two percent each day and workers face much uncertainty, job security is chief among many people’s concerns. In a study run by Pew Research, 51 percent of young professionals and 59 percent of older professionals listed job security as their top priority. Technical engineers and innovators must take that into account when they are dreaming up machines that could work ‘twice as fast as humans,’ because though efficiency has its perks, the downsides of an economy riddled with unemployment severely outweigh them. Humanity’s priority should be the well-being of all humans, not coming up with the next autonomous letter-opener.

And why did we even make this store a reality in the first place? Because grocery shopping was such a chore? So that we could avoid human interaction at all costs? Many new technological upgrades focus on such trivial facets of our everyday lives that all we have to do is press the button. We as a society are rapidly becoming so tech-dependent that we lose our ability to do even the most basic tasks. This overbearing of automatons removes the human touch from just about anything, a step I don’t think we as a people should be so comfortable with.

But let’s be sensible here. I am a teenager, I use technology to my advantage. I am most certainly not calling for a boycott of technology across the board (or should I say screen?). We as a society have made terrific advancements in numerous fields with the help of technical engineering, like cell phones or electric vehicles, and those should be celebrated. In addition, this is a world where everybody wants it done yesterday and efficiency is a prized trait, something technology can most definitely deliver. According to a Heartland Monitor Poll, 69 percent of Americans said “having the latest technology is totally necessary to our lives.”

Surely we crave technical helpers, but our addiction to them needs to be checked. Right now on debate.org, a website that posts yes or no questions, 79 percent of people responded yes to “Do we depend on technology too much?” If we continue our overzealous reliance on technology, we face numerous consequences like a crippled workforce and the inability to perform basic tasks. We are letting tech run free in our lives and it has started to penetrate the very essence of what it means to be human.