Technology is a chain around society’s neck

Friday, September 8, 2017

Much of our modern technology is destroying civilization, and harming the world. “But wait,” you might say; “Aren’t you a hypocrite? You’re using technology (a laptop and Internet) to make this blog post! In fact, you live using technology just like everyone else!” It’s true that I’m just as dependent upon “modern tech” as the next guy. I have come to rely on my computer for writing, researching, browsing the Internet, and even for watching films and playing music. I need my smartphone for my job, and I’ve grown rather attached to the camera and some of the apps; I really like being able to “check in” on Facebook from wherever I am, or immediately share a photo or post something about an experience I’m having somewhere.

But am I hypocrite? No. I reject such criticism. A lot of technology is harmful to us, but I - just like you - depend upon it in some way. And because of how modern society is dependent upon technology, and because it has become the artistic, communicative, and informational medium of our time, I must use this technology in order to convey ideas, express beliefs, or say anything that I would like people all over the world to be able to read. Hence, this website. But is not a thing of nature, or something organic.

I created this website using a service provided by a corporation (Google). I accessed that service by having Internet, which, currently, is provided to me by an Internet company (Optimum). I am able to access that Internet because I own a computer, which I did not build, but rather, which I purchased on Amazon, and which was made by Dell, and physically manufactured by people whom I will never meet. I am able to use the computer whenever I choose because it is powered by electricity, which is provided to me by the electric company. I’m able to enjoy the benefits of that electrical service because I live in an apartment that is not owned by me, in a building that has been built on property that I also do not own.

There are at least eight degrees of separation - probably many more - between myself and I’m using this as an example because I find it to be a good representation of society as a whole; we are separated by numerous degrees from everything we do in life. Most people are not autonomous anymore. Technology is not inherently synonymous with the fall of autonomy, but it has played an enormous role. We no longer know how to hunt/catch or cook our own food, or how to build weapons (or even simple tools). Most cannot even tell time without access to a clock, watch, or phone. People have forgotten the histories of their own towns and communities, fallen away from the culture and practices of their ancestors, and lost their connection with the organic world around them, now experiencing nature only through degrees of separation - and often vicariously, through photos or videos on social media. Technology has withdrawn our creative spirit, erased our individual self-sustainability, and, in many ways, bound us hand and foot to the Great Machine, a catchall term I use for social networks, corporations, and those in the shadows who pull the strings.

Industrial farming has replaced hunting in all but the most rural of areas, making entire nations dependent upon the mass torture and slaughter of livestock and unlinking our once-interpersonal relationship with the meat that ends up on our plates. As such, a man or woman no longer requires the hunting skills of his or her forebears; those traits which a hunter-gatherer lifestyle had once deemed necessary, like bravery, discernment, and patience, are diminished at best, and banished altogether at worst. Thus, modern man becomes that much weaker.

Online websites - and let me just preface this by saying that I love being able to order things from Amazon at the click of a button - are now replacing physical stores. Physical stores themselves were once independent family-owned shops, which then were bought out by larger stores owned by corporations, which then were themselves assimilated into larger store-chains owned by megacorporations, slowly severing our relationships with merchants and manufacturers, degree by degree, over the course of time.
Now this process has reached its logical conclusion: we buy physical items from a mass aggregator of megastores that exists somewhere in cyberspace, delivering payment facilitated by intermediary digital services like Paypal. And, by the way, Paypal is connected to your bank account, to which your credit card is connected; that’s three degrees of separation from the very manner in which you pay for something! To say nothing of the actual digital currencies that have popped up now, like Bitcoin. Accordingly, one can no longer physically touch or examine an item before purchasing it, or speak directly to a merchant. Elements of our true natures, like curiosity, analysis, and personal interaction, go out the window. Modern man becomes that much weaker.

These are two glaring examples, and I can list many more, but will refrain from doing so for the sake of brevity. But you can see the problem. As we take part in the great “march of progress,” and “advance, technologically,” we are regressing as a civilization and as a species. This downward spiral continues on its trajectory, ironically enough, the more we “move forward,” technology-wise. In the long run, a human being with great potential dwells in a sub-human state of dependency, ignorance, ungratefulness, and laziness, dumbed down as modern tech does the working and thinking for him or her, and motivated only by greed, boredom, an increasingly shortened attention span, and a desperate need for instant gratification (in the case of social networks like Facebook, this need often manifests itself as a plea for attention). We have made ourselves sick - physically, psychologically, and, if you believe in this sort of thing, spiritually.

But don’t worry, Apple is going to come out with the new iPhone 8!

It isn’t fair of me to criticize all this, however, without also humbling myself and letting you all know that I honestly have no idea how to correct any of this, or how to heal people or the world. I’m just a human being, who was born into a modern era, and who in many ways must simply make do with things as they are. I have to admit, also, that I like a lot of it. I like being able to grab an Uber and instantly get somewhere. I like being able to message anyone in any part of the world online; to have that kind of connection at my fingertips. But I recognize the problems with these and other aspects of modern life.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ascribe to any sort of cynical or defeatist philosophy. I just know, pragmatically speaking, that there are things in this technological age that we can change, and things that we cannot. I don’t foresee myself breaking free of the Great Machine’s “chain” any time soon, but there are also things I can do to ensure that I do not completely forsake my autonomy. I can create things; I can write a book, or draw or paint a picture, or take a photo, or learn how to build something. I can exercise my mind and my imaginative and innovative nature, and nurture those traits that are so often diminished in today’s society. You should too. Don’t sit idly by while humanity sinks lower and lower. Exercise your brain like you would any other muscle - and don’t forget to exercise your body, too! Smartphones, Uber, and Amazon should not be used as excuses for laziness and apathy! Sometimes, a simple walk can be enough to lift you out of a sour mood and make you feel as though you are in control - because in that instance, you are.

There are so many things in this life, now more than ever, that we have no control over. As for those aspects of your life that you can change . . . make sure that you do.

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