Before the pictures of the fate of democratizing technology, for context, let’s remember that humans lived and thrived for hundreds of thousands of years without even the wheel. Despite our erroneous projections of our fears of what life outside society would be like, our best evidence from history, anthropology, and archaeology tell us they lived with comparable of often higher signs of
- Mental health
After all, they survived 300,000 years. In less then one one-thousandth that time, since the Industrial Revolution, daily headlines describe how we’re lowering Earth’s ability to sustain life, including ours.
Pictures of the fate of democratizing technology
Walking along Sixth Avenue yesterday, I saw this broken electric scooter abandoned in the gutter:
A couple years ago, electric scooters cost over $1,000. Many saw them as exciting technology that could help people gain mobility and reduce pollution.
Already, we treat them as disposable. They contain toxic chemicals. Their plastic will last centuries, disrupting hormones in humans and other life. People and wildlife were displaced from their land for the raw materials and oil. Making it warmed the globe. It’s maybe a year or two old.
Why would we think electric cars will take any different a route? China already makes electric cars under $1,000. As I wrote in my post Prediction: cars will become disposable, I predict we will fill landfills with them.
When someone invents a new technology, it usually costs too much for most people to afford. Few could afford the first cars, computers, phones, steam engines, chariots, and so on. A wonderful part of our culture is that if demand exists, innovators and entrepreneurs will find ways to make new technology available to more and more people. Isn’t that great?
Technology extends lives, enables us to cross oceans, and so on. If we don’t extend technology’s benefits to all, wouldn’t that be morally wrong? Shouldn’t we keep promoting innovation, efficiency, and growth?
Unintended side effects
Technology produces two effects. One is the intended effect of what it’s designed for, usually to improve life in some way. The other is that it pollutes. It seems to me that we’re turning Earth into Skid Row. Here is the Skid Row or my home town of Philadelphia, Kensington:
Long ago, the second effect seemed negligible. I ask you: do you think technology now improves life more or turns Earth to Skid Row more?
To help you answer, here are the Henderson Islands in the south Pacific, thousands of miles from any city:
All of that garbage was bleeding-edge technology when it started: the plastic much of it is made of and the things it made. In Kensington, we’d have to include the technologies that, when invented, were expected to decrease addiction: cocaine, crack, meth, heroin, fentanyl, and so on. But democratizing them increased addiction. How many other technologies created that outcome?
Two key questions
The first key question: has technology helped overall? We enjoy music any time we want and painless surgery extends our lives. On the other hand, people lived 300,000 without it, about as healthy, living about as long, with more equality, and other desirable results (according to history, anthropology, and archaeology, despite self-serving popular conception).
The second key question: if our culture is so great, including all our technology, why does nearly every culture it meets resist joining, to the point where our cultural ancestors killed, displaced, subjugated, enslaved, and took their land and resources?
By “cultural ancestors,” if you fly, drive, and order takeout, you’re part of that culture, independent of your genetic ancestry. You can exit that culture by stopping paying for things that turn Earth into Skid Row. You can do it.
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