Thursday, August 31, 2006

Technology affects your life in hidden ways

"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons."
- R. Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller, best known for buckyballs and geodesic domes, disliked the common ways of doing anything. While he was a master of physics, engineering and archetecture, he was not fond of technology itself.

What could those "wrong reasons" be?

Think of companies that produce the newest technological devices that become instant market fads. Do you feel any fondness for them in any way?

Think of scientists who are doing research on the human genome, who can find a gene you have as part of your own body, discover it has an unusual or rare quality, then secure a patent on that gene, a patent for which you will receive nothing in royalties.

Think of scientists who find products that have been used for thousands of years, let's say in Asia (basmati rice from India, for example), then they secure a patent on those very same agricultural products that have grown in gardens in Asia for millennia and want to exact a royalty fee from those same poor peasants for growing what their ancestors have grown since before history was recorded.

Getting back to technology, how do you think the stock values for those companies that produce the new devices will fare on the market? You would expect them to do well. Apple, with its iPod, for example, is doing better than it ever has in its history. Apple is making a fortune while many of its customers suffer from hearing loss.

When a new product is developed, which question do you suppose the companies will ask themselves: Will the world be a better place because this product is now available? or Will my company's stock and my personal fortune skyrocket when this product becomes the must-have gift?

The motive of these companies is always money. What's more, they teach their customers--your children, for example--that money is the most important thing there is. They are teaching your children, by example if nothing else, that they should form their lives around their ability to make as much money as possible.

Technology is a marvellous thing. Who would have thought that it could teach a whole society a new set of values?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make the social drift of values more apparent.
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