Does science and Technology make life more convenient or life was better when technology was simpler? A philosophical debate
Over the last one hundred years humanity has experienced the most profound change in almost all spheres-social, economic, political, and technology. But it is perhaps in technology that the pace of development and change has been quite phenomenal.
Within this period, man was able to conquer the skies with the invention of aircrafts that even travel at supersonic speed. Within this period, man was able to conquer extra terrestrial universe and gather as much information possible about the possibility of life there. It is within the last one hundred years too that the world got shrunk by Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of wireless radio, and the subsequent inventions in forms of TV, the World Wide Web (WWW), have literally made the world a global village. And no one can forget the wonderful medical discoveries and comforts that have guaranteed the life expectancy of a human being to be above three score years.
One can go on and on to enumerate the numerous inventions in science and technology by man, yet the fundamental philosophical question is: Does science and technology make life more convenient or life was better when technology was simpler?
This question can only be answered through an appraisal of the situation as it obtained some years back in various spheres that science and technology have had a defining influence, and how it is today.
Beginning with medical sphere, there has been an unprecedented development in all aspects-pharmaceutical, health care, surgery, curative health and diagnostics. Man has been able to master the right kinds of foods needed by human bodies to enhance overall health. When sick, medical breakthroughs that have come are able to be applied for restoration of health. Medicines that cure even the most malignant of human ailments and wipe out virtually every bodily bug have been developed. The plague causing diseases like polio and dysentery that could wipe civilizations are now treatable with either a few injections or tablets, and to die from these diseases is almost impossible today. The erstwhile terminal illnesses are now non- threatening as science and technology has availed effective ways of either curing or managing these conditions. And for these phenomenal advances in science and technology on medical health front, life expectancy has remarkably improved.
The second sphere to consider is that of production. In the olden days, men lived a subsistence lifestyle as hunters and gatherers. The productivity was quite low and meant for immediate consumption because man used manual tools to produce food. But as time moved on and demand for more food and resources soared, man infused technology to increase production to feed the rapidly growing population. Technology in agricultural production right from usage of Shadoofs along River Nile to technological innovations in Harappa and Mohenjondaro ushered in an era of agrarian revolution. Man for once moved from substance existence to production of food even for the future. And with time, newer technologies enabled processing of not only the agricultural products but also a variety of other raw products. The industrial revolution in Europe in the 19th Century marks a defining moment in man’s ability to manufacture goods for human convenience in mass. As a result, automobiles, phones, appliances and a host of others are today within reach and have made human life more comfortable than ever before.
Technology has had a great impact also on transport systems. Man is not only able to conquer distances over land but also on seas and in the skies. The ever elegant automobiles, supersonic jets that cruise the skies at fast speeds, and sea ships add to unimaginable quality of comfort to human beings. In retrospect, it is incontestable to state that technology has enabled man to conquer all the forces of nature. The items of comforts such as articles of clothing and electronic gizmos have been the product of the leap in science and technology. Whereas a tribal native of some part of developing world walked around barefoot and resplendent in hides barely one hundred years ago, today he walks around in elegant and fine clothes and a pair of shoes.
Lastly, science and technology has enabled man properly utilize the limited resources in the planet to the optimum for the benefit of all. He has mastered the elements of weather and can accurately predict when the next rains shall be and when the next dry spell shall be. This enables proper planning and adequate preparation such that man is not wiped out by such weather vagaries as drought or flash floods. It is solely through technology that meteorologists are able to predict weather patterns for the benefit of farmers. In all these cases and many others, it becomes clear that science and technology make life more convenient than when technology was simpler.
To wish to go back to those days can only be understood for what it is-a sentimental nostalgia-but cannot be wished by rational minds as to do so is to demean technology’s great contribution in affording comfort to man.