Mankind and civilizations throughout history have been affected at various times by forces that changed the way they lived and worked – the replacement of oral tradition with the written word, the democratisation of education, the development of the scientific tradition, the Industrial Revolution, the application of economics to manufacturing – but no change has been as vast or as deep as the changes wrought by technology.
The computer has enabled mankind to visit the Moon and explore many mysteries of life itself. The global economy has been reshaped by machines that can collect and analyse prodigious amounts of data in real time, telephones and communication devices linked through satellites, and robots capable of precision, strength, and durability far beyond human capacity.
Technological advancement is taking a swipe and each generation thinks the following generation will be the downfall of humanity. Those who grew up during the sixties, seventies and eighties think the generation after them has been destroyed with their love of rock and roll.
The internet is a part of today’s culture that many people cannot even imagine what the world was like before the Internet existed. It is fun, informative and a great one stop source of communication. A good example is being in Rwanda and you are able to video call, chat or text anyone and everywhere in the world, all by courtesy of the internet.
It has provided ready educational tools and our students can now learn about almost anything.
Sharing information through Internet is easy, cheap and fast. Technology has taken away the long research processes in our universities, and has given us sites like google, and other amazing databases that give us the answers to billions of questions in
Geographical and time isolation have virtually been eliminated across the globe. Students from around the world can also have access to education instantly at their own convenience, thus eliminating the rigidity of the traditional brick-and-mortar education model. Furthermore, many colleges now offer Massive Open Online Courses which has improved general global access to education.
Similarly, modern technology has also changed the role of the teacher. Traditionally, the teacher has been the focal point in a class; now that role has become more indirect as a coach, mentor or facilitator who observes the process of learning activities around the student.
Manual labour is growing extinct, replaced by machines that work faster, error-free, and never get tired or bored. Assembly lines of hourly workers have been reconstituted into connected robotic work stations; telephone operators are disembodied voices programmed to efficiently direct calls or solve problems without human intervention.
Organisations have eliminated mid-management levels, as computers give executives greater spans of control, while the duties of secretaries, clerks, and book keepers have been redefined so that single employees can do the work of two or three workers. Travel agents have been replaced by self-service and online travel sites, RwandAir transferred to online ticketing, check-in, and seating from airline employees to passengers, saving costs and increasing efficiency.
The advantages of technology are visible in every facet of human activity, but each step forward is often accompanied by social, economic challenges, a disparity in the benefits received and unanticipated. Our knowledge of the computer has now exceeded our wisdom, and therefore, individual hardships and progress are two sides of the same coin.
Advancements are constantly seen throughout every aspect of life. Cell phones, portable Internet availability, laptop computers, iPods, and many other devices, are everywhere. They seem to possess unending possible detriments and having impacts on daily users. Imagine being in a meeting and what’s app notification sound comes from every corner of the hall, or having a private coffee chat with a friend somewhere in the hilly terrains of Kigali and selfies become the order of the day.
Gluing on these gadgets has become highly addictive, and like all addictions, have negative consequences. Those who are constantly engaged in using technologies become so addicted that they spend less and less time with their loved ones. This might lead us to a more isolated generation, overly dependent on technology rather than fellow human beings.
Another scenario is finding some young fellow having big headphones covering his ears walking along the road which is not uncommon in Kigali or our many cities. The danger becomes real for the innocent man as the music steals all his attention forgetting other road users.
One philosopher said, “After enough time in front of our screens, we learn to absorb more information less effectively, skip the bottom half of paragraphs, shift focus constantly; “the brighter the software, the dimmer the user,”
Although technology can be profitable, it must be used in moderation, as not to damage the social ability of today’s youth. With apps, games, and social media platforms being developed every day, there is a huge market for distraction devices.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative to Rwanda recently observed that technology is changing communities’ values and way of thinking which innovations should get in tandem with to create a dynamic equilibrium between innovations and people’s changing ideals.
Finally, let us not forget what Albert Einstein once observed about technology: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”.
The writer is a consultant and visiting lecturer at the RDF Senior Command and Staff College, Nyakinama.