Thoughts on Technology: "The Next Shiny Object"

ellen rosner • 7 September 2017

Some Thoughts on Technology: "The Next Shiny Thing"

Thomas Berry in The Dream of the Earth cautions us of "technological entrancement". In my words, being distracted by the next shiny thing.
All technology has consequences, intended and unintended. 

Take the automobile. When it was first built, no one asked the citizenry did we want to become an automobile culture. There was no debate about covering the Earth in pavement. Environmentalists tell us to "keep fossil fuel in the ground"; how likely is that when we need it to fuel the cars upon which we rely. Look at Houston to see the consequences of paving Mother Earth.

Some of the minerals used in cell phones and other digital devices are procured from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the profits from the trade fuel the horrific violence there. Where does your cell phone go when you buy the next shiny object? It goes to a toxic dump in Mexico or other poor place, where children pull it apart for the ingredients, thus poisoning themselves with toxic chemicals like mercury and arsenic. And these chemicals leech into the soil and water, poisoning humans and animals. 

It is not my intention to guilt anyone. I drive a car and I own a cell phone. I am not arguing for a return to the stone age, or to pre-modernity or to pre-“Google can map your house.”

I am arguing that technology is never neutral. I am arguing for the recognition that our convenience equals misery in the Third world. 
I am suggesting that we not let our fascination with the next shiny object blind us to the fact that our choices have consequences, dire consequences. 
Let us not fall victim to what Jerry Mander calls a “culture-wide passivity” when it comes to every technological brainstorm. 
As citizens, we do not vote on technology - which should be adopted, which should not. It is presented to us, with no debate.

I am grateful for this online Pachamama forum and for the technology that lets me talk to like-minded people all over the world, as well as find kindred spirits in my “own back yard”.
I would plead for us to bear in mind that virtual connectivity can never replace person-to-person connecting. To remind ourselves that there is nothing as powerful in building community as human beings in the same room, looking at, listening to, and talking to each other. Virtual connectivity can be the finger pointing at the moon/ it will never be the moon. 

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