©2000 Zhan Huan Zhou
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The End of Humanity
©1999 Zhan Huan Zhou, Fall 1999, Issue 2
During the industrial revolution, the legendary Ned Ludd broke a knitting frame to spite his father. His outrage inspired a group of English workers and lead to widespread destruction of looms, mechanized typesetters, and other devices invented during the industrial revolution. This was a protest against the new technologies that allowed unskilled workers to produce goods at the same level as experts. The Luddites, as these protesters came to be known by, felt that the technology threatened their way of life. They thought technology had gone too far!
But what does the phrase 'technology has gone too far' actually mean? Some would suggest that is just a catchphrase with no real meaning, concocted to grab the attention of those without a brain of their own. Others may argue that there is a deeper meaning, questioning our own humanity. By advancing our technology, our species is losing touch with our symbiosis with the Earth and the elements.
Perhaps technology has gone too far. The large Mennonite population in K-W serves as a very real example that we don't need all the high-tech wonders that permeate our lives. Most Mennonites don't have a radio or television set in their houses. Some don't even have a car, but travel with a horse and buggy. Those with a car only drive ones that are black and have no radio. They are fully functional in today's society without the electronic toys.
Historical analysis indicates that the Luddites had no fear of losing touch with their humanity, nor were they Mennonites. They had no deep reason for their attacks during the industrial revolution. They were concerned with one thing, and one thing alone, money! Their source of income was being threatened by new technologies that rendered their artisan skills useless. Despite the Luddite uprising, they could not stop the force of the industrial revolution. The new technology dominated the workplace and production is more efficient than ever. But even in today's advanced world there is resistance to new technology. Many elderly individuals don't want computers simply because they are afraid of them. They would rather do things the old fashioned way.
Indeed, it always appears that the old fashioned way is more humble than the state-of-the-art method, but what point did technology go too far? Was it when we tampered with the fundamental unit of life, DNA? Was it when we tampered with the fundamental unit of the physical world, the atom? Was it when we didn't need to be in the same room to see and hear what was happening? Do televisions, computers, and telephones remove us from our 'humanity' by eliminating the need for face-to-face interaction? Or perhaps it was during the industrial revolution when we first started using the Earth as a toxic waste dump. Maybe it was when we developed agriculture and started to farm and harvest the richness of the land. Better yet, why not travel all the way back to the beginning of our ancestral line and place the blame on stone tools and fire? None of these examples are a satisfactory place to draw the line. There was however, one event where everything changed. There was a crucial stage in human development where instead of the environment shaping us, we shaped the environment. This was the birth of civilization. That was the point in which technology started to dehumanize us and we started losing touch with the Earth. We should have stopped advancing then and there.
It is a contradiction both of nature and human beheviour to stop advancing, though. Advancement is the very essence of every species, especially Homo sapiens sapiens. Our species won an evolutionary war because of our large brain mass. That large brain helped us develop of tools and technology enabling us to survive better than our competition. Eventually we used technology to make us healthier and live longer. There have been times, however, where technology has caused mass destruction. For example, World War II was a graphic introduction to the power of the atom. Today, however, it provides electricity to millions of people worldwide who use it for heat and cooking. And remember, it was humans who started the war and it was humans who flew the bomber and it was humans who detonated the bomb.
There is saying that a poor craftsman blames his tools. In a greater context, it can be interpreted that the irresponsible human race is blaming technology for the destruction of the earth. Technology hasn't gone too far. Technology will not put an end to humanity. Ultimately, it will be humanity that will put an end to humanity.