Student’s Corner

Are we about to experience a technological revolution?

On January 22nd,  2021, The NYC Media Lab released an optimistic piece detailing some high-profile developments in technology and medicine.  When reading the article, one cannot help but to get excited about the future of technology, in spite of COVID-19 devastating much of the world throughout 2020.  

The rate at which technological innovation has been occurring over the past several years, in conjunction with ever-increasing investment in research and development, was high even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  With changes in lifestyle, the pandemic spurred developers, farmers, entrepreneurs, doctors, and more to adapt technologies they may not have otherwise.  

While I try my best to remain cautiously optimistic, I remain reluctant to go all-in on this “techno-future.”  Excitement for new technology is great – medicine can heal the sick, while self-driving cars may lessen the chance of accidents.  However, this excitement should not supersede the desire to do the technology right – that is, produce in a way that is as regenerative and sustainable as possible, in a time where we are uncertain about the future, yet giddy for easy life. 

As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in his farewell address to the nation, we “must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow.”  Here, I do not mean to imply there’s a “zero-sum game” rooted in our economy, in our society, and in our personal lives.  What I do mean, however, is there are often unintended consequences to pursuing technological feats in the name of “progress” alone. 

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, existing social media technologies were making people feel more isolated than ever.  The United States budget deficit is on a sharp increase, while the national debt continues to soar.  This does not even consider problems pertaining to mass unemployment, social injustice, and public health, which were highlighted throughout the course of 2020.  Of course, environmental destruction persists as we move forward in time.  How is any of this “sustainable?”  

I could very well be wrong, and my caution be misplaced.  I do not mean to be alarmist, which I personally think is a misguided philosophy to have, as discussed in an earlier article.  Some medicinal developments, like an mRNA vaccine, would do a lot of objectively good things for humanity.  I only hope that such technologies ultimately make the world a more utopic, not dystopian, one.  

Thank you also to the NYC Media Lab for continuing to produce content such as the Innovation Monitor.

Written by Dax Emerson, Class of 2021

Photo Credits: Marko Blažević on Unsplash

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