By Nathan Rieder
Albert Einstein once said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. Some other guy undoubtedly once said “It’s trite and tacky to start a blog entry with a quote by Albert Einstein”. So be it. The veracity of this quote far outweighs any concerns I have about the stylistic taboo of opening with it.
We live in a society that becomes more technologically advanced by the second. Nobody will deny this. I’m a member of the generation that’s supposed to take these advancements for granted and be right at the cutting edge, and even I am oftentimes baffled by the pace at which sci-fi is becoming reality. But isn’t the real measure of a society not what talent it has, but rather what it uses that talent to create?
And what do we create? Revolutionary new inventions that are badly needed by those among us who are struggling? Yes, sometimes. But it seems the vast majority of our advanced scientific and technological knowledge goes into allowing people to be more lazy and hedonistic. Cars that start with the push of a button rather than the turn of a key, toilet seats with remote controls, motorized ice-cream cones and computers that we can talk to instead of typing, just to name a few.
Levitra, Viagra, Cialis; I would bet most Americans can name more treatments for erectile dysfunction than they could for AIDS or cancer. But can we really blame them? One can hardly turn on a television or radio these days without hearing some multinational pharmaceutical conglomerate warning them about the dangers of erections that last longer than 4 hours. Meanwhile, legitimate societal problems such as grave illness and widespread poverty go largely unnoticed.
The rich, horny, entitled elite can afford and are fascinated by fancy new gadgets, so we create for them. We target the consumers that will be most economically beneficial to us rather than those who could use our help the most, and this perpetuates a cycle wherein the gap between the have’s and the have-nots continues to widen. If the world of science would step back and take a more humanistic approach to the types of problems they spend time, money, and energy in attempts to alleviate, we might be able to make some actual progress as a people instead of simply making it easier to complete already facile tasks.