Friday, May 2, 2008
Technology and Dependency
The intricate relationship between technology [manifested in a variety of goods and services] and human dependency is one that eventually will be faced by all. The recent power grid failure in the northeastern section of the United States is a prime example of what can go wrong when a section of the infrastructure fails. The delivery system of electrical power is quite complex and involves shared systems and is subject to power demand, distribution methods, and soundness of the equipment. The ramifications of that event were financially enormous in addition to the human misery. Fortunately, the power was restored in a short time. But the loss of something as basic as power can be both economically and psychologically destructive. In the past five years the electrical power in my community was disrupted by an ice storm in late January and a F4 tornado in May. Mountain man personas were common. Strong desires to cook a hot meal, brew a pot of coffee, read after sunset were common. The January ice storm with short days, cold temperatures, accustomed amenities suspended--all began to effect people psychology. The point is that we take so many things for granted and all of the interrelationships between them. We do have a dependency on technology.
But further than that the technological dependency is carried right down to the personal level--the sustaining of ones existence. Take the health areas for example. A single instance of congenital bronchopulmonary dysphasia can be controlled by technology. Cardio defibrillators can be implanted. Antiarrhythmic drugs can be administered. We depend on the over-the-counter medications for symptomatic relief of many medical issues. The ethical issue is just how far one can sustain comfort, mobility, and cognition. Can we trust the technology to do what it is supposed to do and for how long. Is there a point when the technology should be discarded [for whatever reasons] and let nature take its course. One can't live forever but there is no need to suffer and live an existence of non-function. Extrapolation of such a situation provides a vision of a technologically dependent human with devices throughout the body and energized by foreign chemistry. By all means use chemistry and devices to sustain life and function as a human being.
Transportation is another critical area for we depend upon all of the mechanical/electrical/physical systems of a vehicle to function properly. We need the vehicle to get too and from work, entertainment, emergencies, etc. No vehicle will put a kink in the economic formula. Everyday functions are dependent on technology: Electricity, fresh water, refrigeration of foods, cooking of foods, books to read, computers to communicate, the coffee pot, ball point pens. The point is, it is a given that we must have technology, but have we become too dependent and do we have a international and personal backup plan whereby we can function for a time without technology.
Can we still write first class letters by candle light with a pencil?