The Downside & Upside of Digital Technology
Digital Technology is pervasive. According to thesaurus.com, Digital Technology is also omnipresent, inescapable, universal, ubiquitous, prevalent, common and rife – a lexical smorgasbord that yesteryear, would only be accessible with a trip to the library or at the very least, the bookshelf. Now, it’s as easy as the click of a mouse. Synonyms aside, there’s no denying that Digital has evolved from an element of society into (arguably) its very fabric. Everyone owns a smartphone, everything has an app and drones are more commonplace in some parks than Frisbees.
Whether you’re an Early Adopter or a confirmed Luddite, the pros and cons of the Digital Era abound. Let’s explore…
The undeniable truth underpinning common paranoias around digital media and interaction is that it simply hasn’t existed long enough for the long-term effects to be measured. Informal studies suggest that excessive digital immersion is responsible for isolation, depression, obesity, addiction, insomnia and even eyesight degeneration. That being said, it bears mentioning that excessive anything typically produces negative physical and psychological results. Notwithstanding conjecture, Digital does however, present several very real, very pragmatic challenges.
With every digital footprint comes an ecological one. Again, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of long-term impact but the fact remains that today’s technology relies on unsustainable hardware and high energy consumption – and those are just the physical challenges. On a more intangible level, there’s the negative social impacts to consider. The Internet, for example, remains an unregulated frontier where privacy and safety issues exacerbate creeping, trolling, bullying and every form of online and offline crime. Content integrity is also compromised by the proliferation of propaganda, catfishing and fake news – all contributors to what’s rapidly rebranding our epoch as the Disinformation Age. But Digital Technology isn’t all dystopian doom and gloom…
Conversely, Digital Technology has also improved our ability to create, share, learn and grow. Software Defined Networking promotes centralized network provisioning, lower operating costs, holistic enterprise management and more granular security. Cloud Computing allows us to customize services for specific operational and locational needs. On an even more practical level, 3D Printing enables logistically challenging endeavors like the construction of affordable housing in impoverished communities, while Solar Power empowers us to harnessing clean, renewable energy – and that’s just the highlight reel.
The question remains, how are we as individuals and organizations taking responsibility for the power that Digital Technology affords us? Given the choice to either exploit or leverage emerging technologies, humankind has a troubling history of doing both. For instance, new digital and fiberoptic technologies in oil and gas exploration enable refracking of older wells when we haven’t performed sufficient research to measure the long-term impact on our environment. On the other hand, Organizations like Idea Rebel are leveraging Digital Technology to create campaigns that connect brands with audiences in ways that were inconceivable a generation ago, from responsive websites to revolutionary apps to immersive 3D experiences. Whether solving global issues or evolving human interactions, responsibly managed Digital Technology enables us to explore new solutions to old problems and find brave new ways to build community and collective consciousness.
May 3, 2017