In his recent column in the News Topic, Brent Tomberlin talks about “Making the important connections,” and how technology undermines our ability to do that, so that we have to make a special effort to connect with people in our technology-crazed culture. I agree with that; but I would like to take Brent’s point a step further: technology undermines our ability to be happy and makes us more vulnerable to weakness. And even further: technology destroys our happiness and our security.
Sociologists have “proven” that the happiest people today are the Amish, and that the happiest people in all of history lived during the Middle Ages. What do those two groups of people have in common? 1) They had simple lifestyles, 2) they were agrarian societies, 3) they were family-oriented and lived in close-knit communities, 4) they were connected to nature, and 5) they were spiritually focused. Technology, on the other hand, 1) makes life more complicated, 2) is more prevalent in industrialized societies, 3) disconnects people, as Brent pointed out, 4) tends to keep people inside, away from nature, and 5) tends to make people self-focused rather than God- and others- focused.
For every advantage you can name that technology has brought us, I can name at least three disadvantages. But technology is a Pandora’s box: it cannot simply be brushed aside once it has been unleashed. Every technological advancement requires more technology to deal with the negative side affects, so that technology tends to feed upon itself and multiply ad infinitum. Eventually the negative affects will so outweigh the positive that it will be impossible to keep up. At that point, our society will collapse the way the Roman Empire fell; only, our collapse will be greater and more far-reaching.
Most sci-fi novels and movies that envision a post-apocalyptic future in which technology has failed show the people living in squalor, unhappy and disconnected. I think just the opposite will happen. The fall of the Roman Empire ushered in the Middle Ages, in which people were the happiest they’ve ever been. There were still problems, like wars, but they were localized: not the grand scale affairs that technology makes possible.
I’m not advocating getting rid of technology – that, as I’ve said, is impossible. What I do advocate is that we learn to live as low-tech as possible. To do that, we can 1) simplify our lives, 2) learn to grow, preserve and prepare our own food, 3) learn to live as caring neighbors and family members again, 4) connect with nature as often and in as many ways as possible, and 5) realize that life is a spiritual journey, not a race to see how many high-tech gadgets we can own. The happiest people I know are low-tech. I pray we can all learn to live that way one day.
If you like this, you’ll love Technology Meltdown.