Every new technology is met with a mixture of wonder and trepidation. Before the appearance of computers, this was how people responded to television, and before that it was radio, the automobile, the locomotive, and countless others. The computer has revolutionized how we live our lives, and like any revolution it has had good and bad consequences.
Computers have changed the way we do just about everything. This article was written on a computer, is stored on a computer, and you are most likely reading it from a computer. Digital word processing means less paper is used, which saves a few more majestic rainforest trees. It also makes written documents much easier to access, edit, store and analyze. On the other hand, it also means that people spend increasingly more time staring at a low-level electric light, which is bad for the eyes. Furthermore, it means that people are less likely to develop a distinctive handwriting style.
This is the typical pattern of new technology. It provides a very large benefit with some small but important drawbacks, and also involves a certain loss of sensory experience. The old, outdated technology was always more difficult, and therefore in a certain sense it was always more interesting. But the new technology allows us to do things we could never have done before.
For example, computers have allowed for much easier access to the accumulated knowledge of humanity, meaning that people are able to be far better informed than in the past. However, like all new technologies this new access to information is merely an opportunity: it does not guarantee that people will actually use it for a good purpose. Curious people are able to learn more than ever, and urban legends are much easier to disprove, but new rumors and scandals are also broadcast far more quickly than ever before.
Computer games are another source of excitement and concern. On the one hand, computer games are a lot of fun: the digital environment allows for a much more vivid and interactive form of storytelling. A good computer game combines the best aspects of competitive board games, visual art, and an exciting novel all into one. On the other hand, there is a legitimate concern that computer games are a little too exciting: interest in computer games can become obsessive and unhealthy.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How do you use computers? Which ways of using a computer do you find most valuable?
In what ways do you think computers have most influenced the world?
What do you think are the biggest dangers that computers create?
Computers continue to revolutionize new aspects of our lives. They have now become such an essential part of our lives that the changes they bring have begun to feel routine.