In the past, technological advancement was generally held to be synonymous with progress, and progress to be synonymous with absolute good. People thought of technology as a solution to problems, not a creator of them. As we took each step forward, technologically speaking, we assumed that we were leaving old difficulties behind and advancing into a new and more pleasant future. This was only partially true. For us technological advancement did solve old problems, it also created new ones. These problems are of various types, each having different implications and requiring different degrees of human decision.
One set of problems can be readily identified by looking around. These problems concern the "pollution" of our environment by technology as a result of sudden upsets and imbalances in the physical, economic and social equilibrium. The most obvious aspects of these are the general pollution of our physical environment and the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources.Not so obvious as these, but just as painfully significant to some, are the effacement and displacement of jobs which over night often create large groups of jobless citizens.Can technology be used to undo what it has done, replace what it has destroyed or substitute what it has caused to disappear? No one knows. Many of us wonder whether all of the sources of pollution have yet been identified, whether they are being arrested and whether they will be prevented from recurring.
Another set of problems relate to what technological advancement has done to the quality of life. An improved life has not been, unfortunately, either the goal or the chief beneficiary of technological change. Too much has happened too fast. In contrast, in the past, things changed slowly enough to accommodate gradual change. People could be aware of it and adjusted to it, and perhaps they could even change it. In the modern world, we must make rapid decisions today, or tomorrow wemay find a whole new world built up.Presumably the most significant and potentially explosive issues, however, are those related to methods of human manipulation and control. There is also the new horizon of genetic analysis, manipulation and correction. And there is now the possibility of creating a living substance and decoding and generating a complete organism from the information found within a cell.This is no longer a daydream. Some consider these possibilities visions, others nightmares.
It is true that incredible powers are now within our hands,or at least within our reach, and the question no longer is "Can we do it?" but "How soon can we do it?" Our lives have been and are being changed drastically. The point is to take control of technology or to be driven by it.