With futurist Ray Kurzweil predicting technology will match human intelligence before 2030 and will become fundamentally integrated with the human body by 2045, it's worth taking a moment to look around you: evaluate how far your cellphone is from your fingertips, consider how you're even reading this article, see the other evidence of technological advances. Now, think about the impact of technology on your freedom.
Telegrams have turned into phone calls. Snail mail has become overwhelmed by email. Pictures are available instantly instead of after weeks of processing. Computers that once filled huge rooms now fit into your pocket.
Wireless telecommunications expert Ben Levitan told TheBlaze in an email (notice our use of technology here) that technology itself "only performs one function." That is, "it makes things faster; almost instant," he said.
But how does technology impact freedom? The technology itself, Levitan said, is generally neutral. It's how it's used that can be either liberating or constricting.
Sending an email, for example, saves time and money on the part of the sender and it gets to the recipient faster, but what's the down side? There's now an electronic record of the communication that is technically protected by law in the U.S. from other viewers' eyes, but under certain circumstances, it could be seen by unintended parties. If recent news of the National Security Agency's classified data collection programs have done anything, it is raise alarm about the digital trail being amassed of citizen communications.
And is there also a value lost in taking time for correspondence? Levitan wrote that in the old days the "recipient spent more time considering a response." Just look at the eloquence of letters penned by the Founding Fathers.
There are perspectives for both sides, pros and cons, regarding whether technology is serving to make us more independent or more dependent. The arguments for each are fascinating.
TheBlaze spoke with experts in the tech industry to get their perspectives on the topic. And we invite you on this Fourth of July -- Independence Day -- take a moment to reflect on how you use technology and how it impacts your freedom.
Is Technology Setting You Free ...
“Many people would argue that technology, particularly mobile devices and applications, makes people more dependent on this new group of tools in order to get things done. The reality is that technology gives us freedom to do more and bigger things than we often believe we are capable of," Yuval Brisker, co-founder and CEO of TOA Technologies, told TheBlaze in an email.
An example Brisker provided is how technology has changed the way we physically move.
“When is the last time most of us used a good-old fashioned folding map to take a long trip? Before mobile and location-based technology, we were dependent on those maps to get us where we needed to go. These days we don’t think twice about using Google Maps, often accessing the route we need directly through an app on our phone or tablet," he said.
"In the past, we were dependent on information not supported by technology to get us where we wanted to go, and so our potential to explore our universe was limited by the hard-copy, physical information we had immediately in front of us. Today, mobile devices and applications make us free, simply by providing a gateway to access the collective knowledge base of our world; we don’t have to stick to just what we know or can remember or possess anymore. We can travel much further because mobile apps allow us to be untethered."
Technology has also allowed for the further advance of ideas, going from oral traditions to mass produced books made possible by the printing press to television to streaming content on the Internet. Glenn Beck, for example, might have left cable television for a while but was able to pick back up by starting TheBlaze TV (then GBTV) streamed via the Internet.
...or Is It Putting You in Chains?
Although few would argue against the positive effects of some technological advances, a look at recent headlines shows what some consider to be the negative effects as well: domestic surveillance of phone and online communications; drones equipped with camera equipment sensitive enough to see details as small as someone's attire from nearly 20,000 feet above; smart utility meters that some fear are making them sick; etc.
Even more simple is the seeming inability for some to "unplug" on a personal level.
As Ari Zoldan, the CEO of Quantum Media Holdings, told TheBlaze "technology has apparently stripped us of much of our 'freedom' and 'independence.'”
"In today’s culture of iPhones, Blackberrys and Droids, there is no real concept any more of 'detachment' or 'away from the office.' Clients expect you to respond to their emails and calls instantly, as they know you can be reached on your smartphone. Today, 'the office comes home with you.' You are expected to be reachable always and everywhere -- on the plane, train and during vacation," he continued.
If you can relate to what Zoldan is describing, he said the best thing an individual can do is "self-policing."
"Our relationship with technology and the effects it has on us really depends on how and when we use it. You have to have your own guidelines. In the end, the issue really comes down to self-policing," Zoldan said.
Let us know if you think technology is ultimately leading to more or less freedom by taking our poll:
Featured image via Shutterstock.com.