Technology Can’t Do Everything

23-07-14 jay 0 comment

Re-post from The Mokena Messenger

I worry sometimes that this column presents technology as the solution to all of our problems. By the very nature of being an opinion piece focused around technology and Mokena, I suppose, technology is a recurring topic of interest: the solutions it provides, the ways it benefits to our lives, and the new ways we can use it to help our businesses. But the fact is, technology isn’t always the answer.

Technology can only do so much for us. True, there are some things that it can do much faster and more efficiently than we can, but there are also some tasks where can only be used to supplement human work, and even things it can’t do at all.

So why is this important to talk about?

It’s important because we often look to solve our biggest problems with technology solutions. Can’t find a community for your product? Pay Facebook for “Likes” or fans. Don’t have enough business coming in? Buy some ads on Google. Looking for a quote or source to use in a paper or article? Wikipedia has that information. And so on.

But it’s a fake silver bullet. An easy way to absolve ourselves from the duty of fixing a real problem, or gaining real knowledge that requires honest-to-goodness work. Machines are just a means to an end, after all, not shortcuts.

Focusing on what’s important requires acknowledging the need for real world interactions; things like talking with a person face-to-face, or hearing a human voice. Things that help you interact with the real world or real people, and to pick up the nuances in life. Technology then becomes a tool to amplify your values instead of the solution itself. It’s a way to connect you to things in the real world faster.

By choosing a machine, or a piece of software, or a computer to solve our problems de facto, we’re removing the humanity in the act. So the essential question is: what tasks require humanity to address them, and which ones don’t? When is tech simply not good enough?

I don’t know the answer to those questions, but they’re ones worth asking. Do we want to use technology as a crutch, or, as Steve Jobs put it, “a bicycle for the mind?” Can we learn to use these powerful tools without losing the humanity in our acts?