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Is technological advancement a sign of human progress? 

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Jonathan Beutlich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Unfortunately, there is no 100% objective way to answer this question. Individual worldview will shape each person's answer to this question. Beyond that, various cultures will view technology with vastly different opinions. For example, the Amish eschew many modern day technologies and conveniences because they consider them temptations from the "outside world" that could detract community members away from the tightly knit family structures that are present in their communities. The Amish aren't opposed to technology, but they are very deliberate about what technologies to embrace. If a technological item will hurt the Amish way of life, then it is not a sign of progress. It's actually regressive. This is something to keep in mind regarding technological advances. I believe that people need to be aware of a concept that has been called "The Myth of Technology as Protector and Savior." Jack Nachbar wrote about it in his essay titled "Culture and Continuity: Three American Myths in the Prints of Currier and Ives." Nachbar writes that the myth states that technology is by definition beneficial, and most people believe that new technologies will help make the world and human lives better. That belief then assumes technology shows progress, but I personally think technology is a tool. It can't make anything better or worse. The people that use it are who will show the world human progress or not.

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wordprof eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In one sense, technology is definitely progress—that is, our survival, our procreation, our environment, our health are all improved by technology, so we can say that our survival as a species has improved since cave-man days.  The first “weapon”, whether for protection or for hunting, was a technological advancement.  The summary proof of this kind of “advancement” is longevity—up several decades since medieval times.  On the other hand, technology also threatens to end us as a species—nuclear power, global warming, invented viruses, pollution, etc.  Every technological “advance” brings with it some “retardation”.  Take, for example, the Interstate system—it made travel and transportation of goods easier, but it also broke up the extended family unit and contributed to the decentralization of business.  But the real question is “What do we mean by progress?”  Spiritual progress? Social progress? Intergalactic progress?  etc.  What is the human goal, if any, and who determined that? And what is a “set-back”?  World wars?  Nuclear bombs?   Perhaps after addressing these questions we can determine whether progress is being made, and whether technology helps or hinders it.    

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