Technology Is A Set Of Tools
For a number of years I have been involved with and advising various people and organizations in several countries in Africa and other parts of the world. The primary reason is because I was using Facebook and posting my writing and other items for a number of years. The technology allowed me to make connections that would have been virtually impossible without it, and, because of that, I have had some life-changing experiences. I am thankful for the technology, but the technology is not the objective. It is only a tool that enabled me to expand my reach.
A power drill is a tool that helps us directly by allowing us to insert a screw easier and faster, but indirectly by helping us to complete projects faster to make us more profitable, even if that profit is measured in time saved to spend with the kids. Email, electronic chats, video chats, and the multitude of other options help us to communicate much faster and make us more efficient. The list goes on and on. The tools do what we direct them to do. They overcome limitations on time, distance, and resources.
Even artificial intelligence is a tool that does what someone wants it to do. Such systems are simply computer algorithms, or sets of instructions, albeit extremely complex and sophisticated, combined with massive computing power, designed by people to do something. Some might be constructed to develop other systems or to learn how to do things better or more efficiently. Still, they are instructions that tell a computer what to do, even if the instructions tell the computer to change the instructions. Some of them analyze our buying choices from the past to make current recommendations, with the idea that we will buy something and improve sales. Others analyze market data for trends to help investors improve their record of gains over losses. In each case, they are tools to help the system owner to be more effective and, hopefully, profitable. They were developed and installed with a human purpose, whether that purpose is good or bad, wise or unwise, life-saving or life-taking.
The only value of technology is the extent to which it enables us to do something that we couldn’t do otherwise or to do what we want to faster, more efficiently or less expensively, now or in the future. Technology has no purpose without human purpose and has no reason for being without a benefit to humanity or human beings. Technology itself has no value outside of its use in getting intended results, and if unintended results arise, good or bad, they are failures of the system, even if they might provide input for further development and improvements.
The other side of technology is that there is a cost. That cost is not measured in just money, but in all of the resources consumed in development, in time and frustration when it doesn’t work right, and in time wasted using technology in a way that doesn’t help us accomplish what we need to accomplish. With every promising new technology, many, many hours are usually wasted trying to implement it. A steep learning curve devours time that is unproductive, with the hopes that the improved productivity will recoup the lost hours.
Moreover, there is the human element. Most of us have had the experience of spending hours on Facebook and, when we look back at it, we realize the tremendous waste, because it didn’t get us any benefit and maybe got in the way of something important. Technology for technology’s sake is a waste. Its value comes only from helping us to achieve our goals. As with any tool, used properly for a purpose, it can be of great value.
Dan McLaughlin is the author of “Compassion and Truth-Why Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results.” Follow him at daniel-mclaughlin.com