Technology and the Internet: We have killed our gods and touched the moon

Has technology really changed the world for the better? Read to find out…

At the end of long millennia of toil, humanity put down their ploughs and rakes for the last time, said goodbye to their farm animals, and shimmied into suits to sit in front of a computer screen from nine to five. We have killed our gods, kicked our kings from off their thrones and touched the moon. The calluses on our hands are from holding mobile devices, not bows and spears.

The leader of the free world is a narcissist who can start a war in less than 280 characters. Apple is not just a fruit; our books don’t need paper; our cars drive themselves; our friends and followers number in the hundreds; we have never been happier. In this new era all the old adages are true: money grows on trees and the streets are paved with gold (see ‘I Made Money Grow On Trees’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Gh93Daio0).

A large part of this modern lifestyle is undeniably digital, when 93% of all the currency in the world exists as a string of binary, and the average British person has one hundred times as many online friends as real life friends. To some, the freely distributed information on the Internet means that we are now “basking in a carnival of immorality” (says novelist Joanna Kavenna, slightly tongue-in-cheek), with none of the propriety of a few decades ago, nor the respect to our elders, and with adolescents addicted to their glowing screens. Everyone agrees, however, that the Internet has transformed our lives in ways we have never predicted, and there is no telling what we can do armed with our string of 1’s and 0’s.

Economist Ha-Joon Chang, however, disagrees. For him, the humble washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet has. Through the invention and widespread implementation of labour-replacing machines, millions of women were liberated from menial and repetitive household tasks and were instead able to join the labour market. What followed was a restructuring of the fundamental man-woman relationship in the household, as the woman was no longer economically dependent on the man. Feminism would never have been possible without the washing machine.

In fact, compared to the washing machine, the Internet has been much criticised in the last decade for increasing procrastination, sleep disruption and spawning the FOMO phenomenon. The office worker is far more likely to be scrolling through Buzzfeed listicles than completing that spreadsheet her boss wanted for tomorrow. Chang tells a Guardian reporter, completely deadpan: “Economists have found very little evidence that since the internet revolution productivity has grown.” No shock there, Sherlock.

Most of us probably still have early memories of our parents using clunky Blackberries in the early to late 2000s, but our little siblings may well never have seen those relics of the past. In a few years, who knows where technological advancements will take us? We might be texting our friends with the transparent holographic phones from Iron Man.

Yana VII