Saturday, August 22, 2009

Technological Advances

Mankind has not killed God; he’s explained Him out of existence. What was once considered a grand plan, a purposeful creation, has instead become a random event, a “Big Bang”, and we have the ability to destroy it at any time with the push of a button. With no God to guide or judge our actions, man is free to do as he pleases and determine what is right and wrong, what can be justified, what should be overlooked or explained away. The contributions of our ancestors hold little meaning, minimal value and have no real bearing on how man should behave today; they didn’t understand the world as the modern man does, they were naïve, backwards and unenlightened! We are infallible, we are wise, we have stripped bare the secrets of the human body, Mother Earth, the universe and the soul; we know everything now. This is the Age of Globalism; Technology is our God. As the world enters the second millennium, we have reached our “Terrible Twos”.

Never before in history has time seemed to move so fast. Throughout history some technologies have taken centuries to become commonly accessible and convenient; like the mass production of books or an easy way to travel from one continent to another. However, in this modern world technological advances come and go within a few years; like the fax machine and VHS tapes. Within just the last few decades life has changed by leaps and bounds as we find ourselves unable to cope without our cell phones, computers, PDAs, MP3 players and the Internet. Perhaps it’s like the chicken and the egg; which came first Globalization or Technology? Without one, you would not have the other.

One of the facets of Globalization is that it constantly feeds upon itself, and some might argue that it is growing out of control. Take telephones for example; invented in the 1870s the telephone allowed people to speak to each other over great distances for the first time in history. Perfected over the following several decades, telephones were eventually to be found in every home across America, and throughout the world. Predating the television, the telephone might be considered the first real technology to enter into common use. Today nearly everyone, in most parts of the world, carries a cell phone. In an example of modern art and the impact that cell phones have had on society, Noriko Yamaguchi created a body suit made completely of cell phone keypads.

No longer simply a means to communicate, the telephone has become a vital instrument in the daily life of millions. Yamaguchi implies in her art that cell phones are destined to be implanted in our bodies, giving us full access to the world, and it to us, before long. As man becomes more dependent upon cell phones that are now capable of taking pictures, playing music, television and movies, surfing the web and holding our most valuable information, the price is privacy. Nearly everyone is accessible anytime, anywhere; we are all “plugged in” to the world

If there is one symbol of the Age of Globalization, it would arguably be the computer. A relatively new technology, computers have taken the world by storm and have quickly become invaluable in business and personal life. This one invention has had immeasurable impact on the everyday life of man, from the handling of correspondence and accounting, to the automation of manufacturing, the creation of art, entertainment and hundreds of other uses. Generations will grow up not having had computers in their lives and find themselves at a loss as to how people survived without them.

However the 1995 movie The Net, among others, points out that our reliance upon computers can also prove dangerous. As man becomes dependent upon anything, he gives up a certain measure of control to that thing as well. As the main character in The Net attests, her identity has been altered and replaced, making her a victim of the technology that is so much a part of all of our lives. Frightening less for its action scenes and more because of its plausibility, The Net is a twist on identity theft and the inherent risks we all take when we use our computers to handle the details of our lives we once took care of in person; like banking.

Perhaps the crowning achievement, to date, of Globalism is the Internet. Connecting people like nothing before has, the Internet is making the world smaller every day. Information travels around the word in seconds via the Internet. Pictures, videos, sound, music, artwork, pornography, entertainment, history, information, news and virtually every book ever written is available via the internet. It has infiltrated into our daily lives as we pay our bills, manage our finances, perform our jobs, stay in contact with our friends, meet new people, shop, attend college and do a host of other things on it every day. A worldwide network of interconnected computers, the Internet seems to touch virtually everything, and yet it is still hard to define.

Perhaps it is no wonder then that some people have begun to view the Internet as a form of art, termed In addition there are those who use it to express themselves, and isn’t that what art truly is? There are entire communities that exist only in cyberspace and within those communities can be found virtually every aspect of life that can be found in the physical world. Second Life, a free online virtual reality video game, allows users to create a virtual-self, called an avatar that they then use to interact with other people, create content such as houses, stores or even virtual art galleries, engage in relationships and sometimes even make real-world money for virtual-reality items and entertainment. More than 1 million people live a second life on just this one program alone, and it’s not the only one of its kind. As technology seeps into virtually every aspect of our lives, is it any wonder that some people have chosen to recreate themselves online?

Only the passage of time will tell the full effect these advances have had on Western philosophical, social and psychological thinking, but it would seem that the sense of estrangement from God and isolation from man that began after the Second World War has only increased. The technology that has become so much a part of our lives is also helping to answer the questions our ancestors took on faith; questions like how the world was created, how the human body works and how the mind functions. Medical knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds, allowing man to live longer, cure once fatal diseases and perhaps someday soon, grow new organs to replace faulty ones.

Yet technology has cost man his privacy and, for many, his faith in God. Throughout history religion has formed the backbone of civilizations and was often a central part of the government. However that is no longer the case, at least in many countries. While it can be argued that the division is good, it can also be said that with religion comes a moral and ethical code by with the faithful are expected to live by. If there is no real penalty for bad behavior, no impetus to live a “right” life, a means to escape the person you and live a virtual second life, what will the Age of Globalism lead us to?

Nevertheless, all hope is not yet lost. Virtuous people of faith have begun using technology to spread their message, people use the Internet to create virtual communities of likeminded people who support each other, though they may never actually meet, and as man searches for answers it might be said that at least he is searching and hasn’t yet given up. Ironically the popularity of novels like Dan Browns The Da Vinci Code may suggest that the lure of history and religion is still strong. Perhaps it is that man wants to believe, but when miracles are easily explained it’s harder to have blind faith. Although in the end I believe that for every question answered, man shall ask another; and just as any parent would a toddler, God will smile and indulge our curiosity.

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