There has always been a debate regarding technology and the actual benefits that it has for people. There is one side that believes that technology can help mankind improve the quality of life, while others believe that we are becoming slaves to technology. Each side has good points as to why they think they would be correct. This movement in technology is affecting all aspects of life. One downside is that a number of businesses are becoming obsolete and that people are being replaced by machines. People are always looking to automate things. The reason why certain machines were invented is so that people will be able to exert less effort while increasing productivity. However, has man gone too far? Are we at the point where machines make us less human? According to John Hockenberry, they absolutely can.
Hockenberry () talks about disabilities and how machines were invented in order to help the handicapped perform their daily activities with little or no help. He explains:
“They’ve been using technology in collaborative, intimate ways for years – to move, to communicate, to interact with the world” (Hockenberry 194).
He compares this with puppetry, giving examples of how the body is being moved with the help of machines, saying that it is to make the lives of these people with disabilities much better. The problem here is that they are being compared to what people want to call “normal”. Instead of only wanting to improve the lives of those who are not able to move and function like everyone else, there are also other agendas.
Many people have this certain standard that they believe is correct. If someone is not like everyone else, they are regarded as strange, an outcast or someone who will hold the others back from progressing, moving forward or even excelling. This coincides with social Darwinism in the thought that everyone is competing against each other. In this competition, those who were born with a disability or acquired one throughout their lives are seen as losers in the competition. They cannot be in the same race as everyone else because they do not have a fair standing.
The reason why these machines were made are so that those who do not have a fair start can still compete in this race of life (Bannister). Those who cannot ultimately die off – this is what is seen in the survival of the fittest.
The individuals who depend on machines in order to stay competitive may be made equal, however the questions remains if it is still really them. People who are born with hearing disabilities can have cochlear implants so that external sounds can be transmitted and received by their brain, giving them the hearing sensory. Since they were born without this sensory, they would need a machine to help them hear. However, not being able to hear does not make them any less human than anyone else. The argument is that are they becoming more of a machine? The more people depend on these machines and believe that they are different, that is when the puppetry starts. People believe that they need to be of a certain standard, and that is why they strive for these external devices to help them function.
It is not only the people who are disabled that need this kind of technology, but we see people everyday walking around with their smartphones, Bluetooth receivers, tablets and other gadgets that they cannot function without. When it comes to being stripped down of their gadgets, not everyone will be able to survive. Therefore, technology is taking the humanity out of humans.
This goes the same with drugs. Before chemicals and pharmaceuticals were invented, people would rely on natural remedies in order to cure illnesses. There were diseases and other problems that would plague the modern world. Thanks to medicine, the death rates were lessened. Birthing women were no longer dying from infections and amputees were able to live without the fear of developing a complication. Many people were saved because of vaccines and other different types of cures.
Today, in the modern world, people are turning to different types of medicine in order to become better. Athletes are looking at performance enhancing drugs, the obese population are constantly looking for the next miracle “diet pill” and those who have problems with going to bed just take a melatonin capsule at night. John Vlahos says in his work:
“Let’s say optimists are right, and we’re able to create powerful new enhancement drugs. Should we?” (Vlahos 216).
He believes that most people would say no. However, he presents a study in which the author, Francis Fukuyama, believes that it should absolutely be done. This kind of thing can change the modern world and help people overcome some things that are believed to be impossible right now. He thinks that introverted people can become sociable, and extroverted people will be able to become a bit less open. Drugs and pharmaceuticals will be able to alter someone’s persona, which can be both good and bad.
You will be able to adopt a personality based on what you want. Therefore, you will be able to complete tasks and to things that you normally would not be comfortable with. This means that people will be able to go above and beyond their personal limits and break the barriers of their comfort zone.
For Social Darwinism, this means that people will be able to be on the edge of their seats (Bannister). The competition will be sharper and people will be neck and neck. With a performance enhancing drug like this, those who want to get ahead will be able to without any limitations. You can have your personality and performance enhancing drugs, supplemented by the technology developed in order to make you better physically and can help you become more efficient.
In a perfect world, these things would work. Lives will be improved, people will become more productive, and the dream of only working about five hours a week will become a reality. However, it is inevitable that people will abuse this kind of power. Performance enhancing drugs and other types of pharmaceuticals are considered taboo because they are not ethical. They take the humanity out of a person, this means that the human is no longer a human being.
The problem with today’s society is that everyone is relying on external sources in order to carry on with their day. Regular white collar workers need to get their caffeine fix in the morning, athletes want to get ahead by taking steroid, teenagers want the latest gadgets to be considered “cool”. Everyone is looking for the next best thing to “improve” their lives, when in reality, it is really sucking the life out of them. Drugs have their negative side effects while technology is a capitalist monopoly which is making people spend more than what they are earning. Technology is making people less human, while drugs are hastening the process.
Bannister, Robert. Social Darwinism: Science and myth in Anglo-American social thought.
Temple University Press, 2010.
Hockenberry, John. "The next brainiacs." Wired 9.8 (2001): 94-105.
Vlahos, James. "Will Drugs Make Us Smarter and Happier?." POPULAR SCIENCE 267.3