Today, I discuss how technology makes pursuing your best self difficult.
Table of Contents
- The Benefits of Technology
- Technology Will Undermine Everyone’s Virtue
- Realities About Technology and Virtue
- You Can’t Completely Break From Technology
- Accept That Technology Makes Virtue Difficult
The Benefits of Technology
Technology is “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.”
Whether looking at life-saving drugs, self-driving cars, modern kitchen appliances, better phones, or faster internet, all these things fall under “technology.” Thus, the benefits are easy to see. Everyone enjoys central air, clean drinking water, trash collection services, etc. These comforts can only exist if technology is advancing. If we take that technology away, we lose the many conveniences that make life happy, bearable, and livable.
Technology Will Undermine Everyone’s Virtue
Society’s advancements mean we do not have to worry about the physical dangers and discomforts that plagued humanity for thousands of years. Our ancestors prepared for the winter by hunkering down, canning food, and praying for survival. We turn on the heater and occasionally go to the store.
Because technology removes life-ending dangers and character-building discomforts from our lives, we have a unique battle our ancestors never had to fight. We have to fight ourselves, our vices, and our traumas because we have the free time and resources to do so. Because technology makes everything so much easier, we can be lazy and, most importantly, ungrateful. We cannot see that everything is a miracle and that nothing, from cars to freshly packaged food, is a given.
Because we are comfortable, we can easily give ourselves to vice and become addicted to the distractions that make us slaves.
Realities About Technology and Virtue
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller
It is common for people to judge the morality of our day. They exalt the past without understanding that the past did not have our issues. People of the past were disciplined because they had to be. Either the farmer does his work, or he starves. There is no Wal-Mart to excuse his failures or laziness.
I do not believe we have George Washington if he has the internet. We would not have Michaelgolo if he had PornHub. We do not have Booker T. Washington if labor was so plentiful and affordable, he could hire others to build Tuskegee for him.
These great men would have settled for today’s plentiful distractions like most modern people. Maybe they would have still risen to the top, but they would have been mired in a culture of comfort created by our technology and excess wealth. Their productive output would have been crippled; their accomplishments mutilated by comfort and pleasure.
Thus, the modern man’s battle for virtue is unique: we must be virtuous of our own volition. We do not have racist institutions spurring us forward like Frederick Douglas. We do not have to worry about constant warfare from great empires like the founding fathers. And we do not have to toil day and night just for three square meals.
When technology and social progress remove such challenges, we have no external forces pushing us to be virtuous. We must be internally motivated to be as virtuous as we can.
You Can’t Completely Break From Technology
Technology is everywhere. You use impressive devices that maximize your comfort. Even if you go and live in the wilderness, you are still under the watchful eye of the government that uses machinery to track you and ensure you are paying your “fair share.”
Thus, the Luddite solution of abandoning technology is tricky. Modern medicine can save you from cancer, grocery stores ensure starvation is nearly impossible, and cars reduce transportation times. You shouldn’t want to be “free” from the advancements humanity has made.
Despite technology’s influence on your life, you can control it more than you realize. Blocks on your phone, walking instead of driving, using sunlight instead of electricity: these are all small but significant ways to reduce your dependency on technology and gain independence.
There’s no easy way to roll back the clock, and you shouldn’t want to. But don’t play the fool and believe technology has no pitfalls or drawbacks. Be wise with your usage. If properly used, technology can better your life and maximize your productivity.
Accept That Technology Makes Virtue Difficult
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke
Mainly, I want individuals who struggle with vice, weakness, and depression to understand that modern technology makes greatness difficult. Modernity is full of addiction and degeneracy but even outside of the culture, simply having running water means you will not have to struggle as much.
That lack of struggle produces an intoxicating and deepening comfort. This comfort will permeate your life, and you will find it impossible to pursue what is good and meaningful.
As an individual, you can work towards disciplining yourself and your use of technology. That work starts by acknowledging technology, although comforting and life-saving, will make your pursuit of virtue difficult.
- I suggest reading science fiction anthologies for a diverse selection of works. Although it can be cynical to the point of boredom, science fiction does offer warnings about technology.
- What are some pieces of technology you enjoy? Why? How do they benefit your life? Is it possible to replace these pieces if technology reverts?
- What is a piece of technology that has too much sway over you? For example, video games and social media are my go-to vices. How are you working on controlling your over-use of these things?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.