Technology has forever changed the world. The burning question is whether or not it has been changed for the better. The divide between tech fans and old-school traditionalists is not necessarily generational; to call it a linear issue misses the point. There are pros and cons in applying technology, yet I propose that embracing a silicon-chip society is beneficial (and inevitable).
The integration of technology can be a laborious and frustrating process. Market pressures place the cutting edge of technology on a rigid timeline. We catch glimpses of our future on the Discovery Channel and TED talks. Gigapixels offer stunning image resolution. WiTricity physics group demonstrated practical wireless electricity in 2007. Imagine parking your electric car in your garage and having it charge automatically. Yet the release process for high technology is slow and incremental, and sometimes we cannot appreciate the gadgets we already have when our future is on the news every day. Consider what GPS, cellular data, fiber-optic, and wireless network technologies have done to increase access to information. Countless lives are being saved by incredible leaps forward in medical technology. Wake up and smell the coffee: our future is electronic with a digital display and iPod dock.
Learning disabilities are among the greatest generators of intellectual inequality. Imagine having your thoughts and knowledge trapped inside your head. Dealing with this faultless disadvantage can make the learning curve incredibly steep, undermining the confidence of students in all aspects of their life. Technology is being applied to mitigate the added challenge, facilitating learning strategies that lower the hurdles of cognitive processing defects. Voice-recognition software for writing, time/task-management tools, text-to-speech software (audiobooks, for example), and word-prediction programs are all practical examples of tools in the arsenal of the learning disability specialist. All of them are currently in practice and making a difference in Nova Scotia and beyond.
Restoring ability to physically disabled individuals is a space age technology that researchers are turning into reality. Prosthesis hardly does justice to some of the most advanced medical technology we see today. There are patients testing limb replacement machinery that functions by concentrating the mind. From regulating heartbeats, to curing blindness, there is an incredible reach forward into improving the human condition.
Social networking is often the scapegoat of ‘technofear’. For instance, concerned teachers and parents point the finger at corrupt online communities that facilitate cyber bullying. News sites and YouTube propagate horror stories about victims of online attacks, most recently of a tragedy involving a teenage girl and a malicious online personality that tortured her socially until she took her own life. These stories are fodder for incredible fear-mongering over the internet among the parental and grade school community. I take issue with this view because fear is an unproductive reaction. These stories feed an unproductive fear for child safety on the Internet, manifesting in knee-jerk regulations at home and in school to the detriment of the students. Helping young people develop their online identity should consist of a proactive learning approach, rather than a reactive establishment of rules, as the Anti-Defamation League’s Curriculum Connections advises. The reality is that we have an online identity, and some direct grade school classes on how to navigate Facebook, Twitter and the like while protecting that identity would curb some of the ill effects of the Internet.
Let’s boil it down to the bare bones. Fundamentally, research and development is about driving progress. Progress is inevitable. Does preferring paper books to e-books make me a hypocrite? Nope. When you realize how much of our lifestyle and livelihood are a direct result of technology, you must recognize that it is inevitable. Sit back, relax, and embrace computer chips. Once you learn the language, the conversation is sensational.