“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” These prophecy-like words are attributed to Einstein, one of the greatest scientist of 20th century. The statement was made long before the age of mobile phones and the modern computers. These words have become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity. Once I visited a salon to work on my hair, the friendly barber said, “some years ago my salon was filled with friendly people who filled the room with cheerful conversations, but unfortunately these days everyone who comes here are busy with their mobile phones and care little to greet someone next to him.”
Besides cellular phones many other gadgets have displaced human activity. Human beings prefer “interacting” with machines rather than with fellow human beings. Machines are found more reliable, efficient and trouble-free helpers than other humans. By having constant recourse to technology we have become like alcoholics, the new kind of addiction that is doing terrible things to us; we have become slaves to machines. The technology is not in any way evil, but it is very powerful and we must control it as a means to an end; but should not allow it become an end in our life. We need to return to the real world – world of people and relationship.
Though as a continent Africa has the least number of scientists and inventors, Africans are not missing out in technology. Enslavement of technology is fast catching up with Africa. In the use of information technology we are able to compete with the rest of the world. To a large extend Africans are mere consumers of technology. Often our consumerism is unevaluated. We use it indiscriminately, meaning irregularly and chaotically.
I was passing through a remote and impoverished village in Kamuli district and I happen to see a telephone mast. Due to lack of electricity the mast was operated using solar energy and generator power. The technology that was used at the site is a world class modern technology with latest imported machines. I casually asked, “When telephone technology has become an household item, why agricultural mechanisation, medical innovations and educational facilities have not reached here?” I think, it is human tendency to use technology for more trivial matters rather than productive sectors. In the same way, we have excellent breweries for beverages but lack pharmaceutical companies.
Idolatry of Technocracy
The first commandment explains it all. “I am the Lord your God, and you shall have no other God but me.” Missing the first commandment does make sense following the rest. Idolatry is worship of something other than God, the Creator. It is primal sin that was condemned by God and his prophets. Idolatry implies that we believe in something that we consider to be superior to God. The idolater consciously or unconsciously believe that he has a better “god” to be affiliated with. Technocracy is a total surrender of oneself to technology believing that it will save us.
Technocracy is a chosen way of life by which we allow ourselves to be solely guided by the capacity of the technology. It is an enslavement and pushes us to a point that ‘my life is nothing without technology… I will do things as machines dictate… My life and day to day activities are governed by machines I own.’ Human beings are deceived to become slaves to machines after becoming slaves to their “intelligence”. Once we think that we are very intelligent and we can control everything that is around us we become slaves to machines. Using our own intelligence, the very technology that we built can enslave us.
Recently talking to the Mayors from different cities of the world, the Holy Father said, “Technocracy leads to the loss of work, it creates unemployment, which leads to migration and the need to seek new horizons. The great number of unemployed is a warning…” And he lamented, “…What prospects can the future offer to today’s unemployed youth? Addiction, boredom, not knowing what to do with life – a life without meaning, which is very tough – or indeed suicide.”
Over use of technology has also made us lethargic. Recently a friend from Spain surprised me when he said, “Today in Spain over 30% of young people are secondary school dropouts. They neither want to study nor want to work. They have got used to easy life. They are into internet, entertainment and distractions of every kind.” Unevaluated technology and misuse of technology can surely create a generation of idiots as Einstein predicted.
On 18 January 2015 the Pope tweeted, “Let us not the psychology of the computer let us think that we know it all” (@Pontifex). On another occasion he explained, “Today with so many means of communication, we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? Not necessarily … It is good and it can help, but there is a real danger of living in a way of accumulating information. We have so much information but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information.”
Often we say ‘Information is power.’ But how much of information is used for constructive purposes that will better the life of people. Often times information generated from technological innovations are used to fuel the greediness of human beings. Holy Father blames technological development or rather use of technology for unhealthy livings. Pope attributes many diseases to the use of chemicals in crop growing, desertification of large areas and deforestation.
Besides deceases of various kinds, technocracy leads to environmental neglect, pollution of water, migration, unemployment and illegal work. These are further related to human ills such as human trafficking, child labour, slavery-like mining, and prostitution. Right attitude and healthy use of technology will make human living healthier and happier. Then we will make the words of Jesus Christ true in our lives and in our times, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).
Themes: Need for Silence, Loss of Human Nature, Right Attitude to Life, Supremacy of God, Right Place of Humans in Creation