Is the modern world too reliant on technology?

The extensive and rapid growth of the world has been largely attributed to the technology developed by engineers, scientists and architects. In the past, the Industrial Revolution in the UK had helped to develop it into a sprawling city with the newest technology, improving the quality of living of its citizens in the long run. Today, with the rise of globalisation, the frequency of technology booms has increased greatly. However, recent failures involving technology has raised the question of the modern world being too reliant on technology. Indeed, it seems as if the world has become overly dependent on technology, such that people become unable to complete certain tasks in the case of mechanical failure, or become overly addicted to the use of computers, phones and tablets. Further, there is the question of important tasks and ethical decisions being delegated to technological devices as substitutes. 

Some argue that there is no problem with tasks being done by machines and computer programs, because it relieves us of some degree of effort and helps to complete such tasks more efficaciously. This allows for people to use more time and effort on other tasks, or even to take a rest, improving their quality of living. However, such an analysis would hold only in an ideal world without mechanical failures and mistakes. Often, technology being marketed and used does serve its purposes, but when it malfunctions or fails due to a variety of reasons, it can often lead to catastrophic consequences. The problem underlying this is that people today have begun to assume that technology has help them to do their jobs, leading to a decreased focus on honing skills to do those jobs themselves. A key example is that of the aviation industry. As a result of complex algorithms and computer programming, most planes have in-built autopilot sequences that help to relieve a pilot from flying the plane by himself, save taking off and landing. However, this has led to an overwhelming assumption that this has meant pilots have reduced duties, so pilots practice less, are less alert on the flight, and reports have shown that this causes their skills to atrophy. This was exemplified in the high-profile Air France crash in 2009, in which the Airbus A330’s autopilot malfunctioned upon hitting a storm at a high altitude. The pilot, who had not been paying attention, failed to regain control of the plane, leading to the death of all 228 people on board. On board a flight, it is the key responsibility of the pilot to ensure the safety of his or her passengers. In this case, the pilot had delegated his job to the autopilot function, which could potential harm or kill others in a malfunction. In the same way, a misplaced dependency on technology could possibly constitute a harm to others — it is clear that people have indeed become overly reliant on technology.

Some go on to contest that technology could reduce errors in human judgement, helping to increase the accuracy of decision-making. This would purportedly result in fewer mistakes made, increasing efficiency and productivity. On the other hand, proponents of such a view fail to take into account that there are simply some tasks which must be made by humans alone, and should not be delegated to artificial intelligences. Such tasks often involve moral decisions to be made, in which the judgement of a human who possesses emotions and morality on top of just rationality is highly valued. For instance, the use of drones directed by artificial intelligence has raised huge questions of whether such computer programs which are cold and unfeeling should be allowed to make major decisions such as whether to take the life of another human. Often, situations that occur in reality are complex, with many competing interests and considerations. Computer programs and technology fail at taking into account these complexities, making decisions that may not seem moral to the average reasonable person. For example, in a terrorist hostage situation, a computer program might implement a utilitarian calculus, deciding that it is more rational to obliterate the site using missiles and bombs, at the cost of the innocent hostages. However, a general in the army may disagree, because he recognises the significance of saving those innocents, even though it might mean having to negotiate or make concessions. In such an instance, it is difficult, or even unjustified to allow technology to replace such decision-making. The current use of such means as ways to make decisions shows the world’s excessive reliance on technology. 

Beyond this, an obsession with the capabilities of technology can lead to detriments, because people begin to lose sight of the original intention of the technology. This goes counter to the ability of technology to relieve people of certain tasks and make them more efficient. Many individuals are constantly glued to their mobile phones and computers, spending countless hours whiling their time on surfing the internet, chatting to friends or playing games. For example, in the UK, consumers of digital media spend an average of nine hours a day on their digital products. This takes away time from their work, school life and other interests they may have. As a result, they become less efficient in making good use of their time, instead becoming unproductive. Such excessive use of technology turns out to be counterproductive to its original goal of encouraging efficiency. Hence, when this occurs, people can be said to be too reliant on technology. 

In essence, the world has become too reliant on technology, evidenced by individuals’ reduced ability to perform tasks on their own under the aid of technology — when the technology fails, they become incompetent at solving the problems on their own. This is especially problematic, because it is difficult to tell when the technological device is likely to malfunction. Further, the reliance of technology has spread to areas of decision-making that should be limited to humans, reflecting a dangerous trust in technology to help us make important social decisions. These reflect the fact that technology has the potential to cause harm, especially when people become careless and too unassuming. However, this is not to say that we should stop using new technologies, because they do present a host of benefits, but that we should not completely relinquish the need for humans to be proficient at performing certain tasks on their own, even when technology could possibly be a complete substitute for their function. 


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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.