Updated: Nov 30, 2020
There is so much talking about tech going on, but not much discussion about what technology is.
When you think of technology, what comes to your mind? Most people will probably start talking about a range of electronic devices and appliances, from smartphones to microwave ovens. Despite that, technology does not need to be powered by electricity.
Stone tools were humankind's first tech solutions. Even today, when you use a kettle to boil water to make tea or coffee, you are making use of an artifact of tech with an ingenious low-tech mechanism for telling you when the water is boiling and ready to be used - a steam-powered whistle, with no electric energy involved. And it works seamlessly.
Sometimes, technology is not about crafting a new machine or object but creating a more reliable and efficient method for achieving the same outcome. For instance, finding it is possible to grow vegetables in water or creating new forms of communicating. We can accomplish these two missions only by using our imagination and changing the way we react to the world around us. By using the same process, we even have the capacity to transform ourselves.
For this reason, every time we change our surroundings to create a new perceived reality, we are using technology. It could be an old trick or a brand-new one. Consequently, we can define technology by everything the human mind's luminosity can create to transform humanity and its surroundings.
In many situations, this outcome might not be beneficial at the level we expect or can make us forget our human qualities. It's within the power of the creator to decide. For example, we could design a software application to be highly addictive, providing not much opportunity to help others or ourselves, or we could develop the same app to empower users to help other human beings or ourselves to become a better version of us and at the same time, valuing time and attention as limited resources.
But who should we blame? People or Tech?
Sometimes, we witness situations that roughly no one is getting a positive outcome from tech. Who should we blame? The user or the tool? Even with the widespread use of Machine Learning (ML), the correct answer is probably people because we can trace back the root cause to humans, both end-users and tech industry executives. People are the problem because technology has no underlying substance alone. Think of a hammer as an example. Nothing is technically preventing you or me from calling it a chair and hanging it on the wall as art. But that is not how most of us imagine using a hammer, and instead, we use it as a tool. Technology is no different.
Should we give up using technology?
With so many problems arising coming from the use of technology, should we still care for technology? The answer is yes, and there are two main reasons: First, at this point, we rely so much on technology that it would be nearly impossible to live without it. Secondly, we are entirely capable of keeping a healthy relationship with technology, one that could benefit both our community and us. We need to raise the bar for our awareness of the many ways technology affects us and empower people - and not the industry - to better decide when and what tech we should be using.