(The man lay on the bed and set alarm at night by WeAre via Shutterstock)
Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast is fast upon us. Now in its seventh year, this “weeklong celebration of technology and innovation” will inspire and educate audiences on topics ranging from self-driving cars and internet-driven on-demand services, to augmented reality, virtual reality and the Internet of Things.
It’s transformative innovations like these that are leading some — like Gavin Mann at Accenture — to describe the age in which we’re living as “a modern renaissance period.”
But that’s only one half of the story. The other half comes in the form of a simple truth.
For everything that consumer technology has given us — especially over the last several years, at the height of the Digital Age — we have, from a cultural and existential perspective, seen a lot taken away:
- “Downtime” has all but been eliminated from our lives.
- College graduation rates have declined.
- Book sales (both paper & digital) have dropped off sharply.
- Teen anxiety and depression diagnoses are rising.
- Social unrest — think Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and, in a different form, the unprecedented support of presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump — is higher than it’s been since the 1960s.
All of which raises some big questions.
In a society where technology is largely driven by capitalist/profit motives, does technology have a larger set of roles and responsibilities than we realize? And, if so, what can and should be done about it?
As citizens and human beings, it’s critical that we take the time to examine the broader picture and ask ourselves some hard questions. Like:
- As a rule, are new technologies benevolent, malevolent or indifferent?
- As a culture, are we generally too accepting/trusting of new tech?
- Has the expansion of tech unintentionally limited our freedom and happiness?
- How much does profit motive affect what kinds of new technologies are created?
If we don’t take the time to ask these questions, we stand to lose a lot … including a loss of privacy, an erosion of self-reliance and a further blurring of the lines between persuasion and truth.
So, while one half of us embraces technology next week, let’s push the other half to consider the greater picture. Are we, truly, living in a “modern renaissance” or have we entered an uncharted new era where our well-being is being quietly traded for comfort?
I’ll be presenting a seminar titled “The Dark Side of Technology” as part of Philly Tech Week 2017. The event will take place on Thursday, May 4, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at MakeOffices, 2001 Market Street, #2500.