A world with technology

By | November 10, 2009

I must start by offering my condolences to Jezza for the temporary loss of his Internet. Clearly the stresses of this event have warped his mind into the belief that a world without technology would be anything but a nightmare. Certainly, in this increasingly hectic modern world, it is worthwhile taking the time to contemplate one’s surroundings, and even occasionally vacate oneself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but to eschew technology all together would be utter madness.

Meeting a friend in person is only a superior experience to contacting them technologically due to the comparative infancy of the technology and the sophistication of our senses. Given the current developments in processing power, eye-mounted displays, neural interfaces and associated technologies, it’s not unreasonable to expect that within 10 years one will be able too talk to a friend as if a very convincing facsimile of them were in the room, and within 20 the avatar representing them will be indistinguishable from the real thing.

It may be true that, in the event of a return to a primitive society, many of the larger problems facing the world would dissolve away, but this is only because they would be replaced by much more immediate personal perils. It is folly to suppose that a lack of technology would also remove social inequality- if anything, it would accentuate it. The physically strong would be able to rule over the defenseless weak, and tribal power structures would quickly emerge, with or without the existence of money. Money is merely a convenient fiction to facilitate easier bartering. The physical goods or labour that it represents will still exist (at least, the non-technological ones) and will still be able to be used to exert power over others.

As Jezza correctly states, there would be war and disease, but I suspect he underestimates the scale. Peace is largely predicated on economic interdependence- if I have goods that you want, and you have goods that I want, it’s far more efficient to trade them rather than fighting over the matter- but without the technological advancements that support that interdependence (ships, planes, the internet, etc), the largest societies possible would be small regional affairs and the lack of modern food production techniques would see billions starving to death. Without the spread of education that technology facilitates, future generations would swiftly become superstitious and fully embrace the tribal lifestyle, leading to widespread conflict. Those who were merely wounded in the tribal wars could look forward to a slow death from a minor wound infection, or from slowly bleeding internally. The ones lucky enough to not be wounded could expect to live to a ripe old age of 30, whereupon they would die from a kidney stone growing septic. I humbly posit that yes, this would be “so bad”.

It is a commonly used fallacy to assume that the rate of population increase necessarily means that the world is being destroyed. As we further master our technologies, we devise methods for feeding more people using less land and water, for generating power for our cities in a more efficient manner, and for spreading knowledge of these advances.

I’m not arguing, of course, that technology is perfect, but so far it has managed to solve far more problems than it has caused, and indeed allows us the opportunity to engage in these sort of idle metaphysical musings. Our new developments will doubtless bring more problems in the future, but I anticipate these to be, on the whole, less severe than the problems that the developments were designed to solve, and the new problems will almost certainly be amenable to further technological solutions.

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