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Who to blame, technology or the person who uses it?

By Spiros Tzelepis

Technology is neither bad nor good

Technology is always the "hot" issue in discussions nowadays. A lot has been said and written about it. The defenders of technology are as many as the opponents of it. Usually each one of these two classes of people stress the advantages and disadvantages of technology without taking the time to look at the opposite point of view. For those who have no prejudice in favour or against technology the truth is somewhere between these two extreme views. Technology is like a knife: we can use it to cut our food, but we can use it to kill somebody. It depends on what we want to do with technology. Do we want to improve our lives or do we want to destroy them?

Of course, nobody can refute the fact that our life conditions have been improved due to technology; scientists have been able to cure many diseases; production has been increased, and products have become obtainable by many people, because the product cost has been eliminated; human labour has been decreased, and, therefore, people have more free time; people's mental horizons have been broadened, and generally we live longer and better because of technology.

But the other side of the coin has become already visible. We talk about the irrational interference upon nature; the exhaustion of national resources; the consumerism of modern societies; the scientists' social responsibility as many of them use their inventions for bad goals and the mechanization of work since man has become machine's operator.

Let us use an example from medicine to make it clearer.

Technology improves people's health. Let us see the possibilities of surgery in technologically developed countries like America as compared to those of the countries which do not have this advantage. On the other hand, the involvement of many engines in medical research modified the synthetic and conservative way of thinking into an analytical one. The physician can do much, but not on his own. The doctors today have become "good learners", but not "thinkers" as they are used to "translate" every parameter of health to numbers. Close relationship and human interaction between the doctor and the patient does not exist any more. Patients feel more like objects than persons.

Furthermore, let us think about biotechnology. It fascinates man's thoughts. The fact that the scientists feel that they "play" with the secret of life is an irritating one which pushes them further and further, promising biological immortality and eternity. People expect miracles from genetic engineering, but nature has its own secret laws. Everything that disturbs them has its cost. The more people reach nature's truth, the further it eludes them. When scientists find the cure for a disease, something worse appears to terrify mankind.

Additionally, let us think about how much the war has changed because of technology. People do not fight body to body any more, they fight from distance; technology makes this possible. On the other hand, fighting body to body needs some values which do not exist in the case where someone presses a button and directs the modern means.

The problem is certainly not technology, but the direction we have finally given to it. "Man can be represented by a numerical fraction. On the numerator is his soul, his spiritual self; on the denominator is his life, his physical dimension. As the denominators increases, the fraction decreases." This was said to me by a person I had the luck to meet and discuss this topic with. When man has no values, technology cannot be controlled any more. When man has values, technology serves him.

Technology is neither good nor bad. It depends on how we use it. I strongly believe that it is time for us to understand that the responsibility belongs exclusively to humans who have to obtain social conscience, to respect the human being, the nature and its balances.

P.S. I was very lucky to meet a person whose life has involved controversy and talk to him about this issue. He has attended the greatest universities of the world (Harvard, MIT); high posts have been offered to him; he is the guest of many international conferences, and his articles are hosted in the most famous scientific magazines of the world, but he has chosen to live a simple life, thinking a lot and transferring his thoughts into his writing. I would like to thank him for having discussed these issues with me, although he does not want his name to be mentioned.

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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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