I was born in 1999, the year before the change of the century. As a part of the millennial generation, I was able to experience the changes in society made through the empire of technology. This included the growing interest teenagers had towards social media, games, and their smartphones. As an individual living through this time period, I wasn’t very aware of the changes made by technology and how it affected the world even though I personally experienced it. It wasn’t as obvious since I thought it was a given that technology was always there for us to use. However, the fact that we could communicate with people living on the other side of the world and see them through Skype in minutes was something phenomenal to those older than me. This means of living a connected and faster-paced life is both good and bad like empires. A virtual empire of communications technology has dominated the 21st century.
First, let’s delve into the positive impacts of technology. The very ability to spread ideas and affect others while lounging in your room creates opportunities for people of various ages. For teens and young adults, it was something that allowed them to spread their wings and become a part of the community. An example of this would be organizations and activist groups that were connected through a common interest. A community that allows people to embrace their interests would be a fandom or fandoms. Fans of novels, movies, bands, and more converge to meet others with the same interest and find relief in knowing there are others like them through events organized by the fandom, but some organizations take things to another level.
The Harry Potter Alliance or the HPA has created a campaign in which Harry Potter fans create videos to convince the Warner Bros. to stop producing their Harry Potter-branded chocolate through child labor. The Fair Trade label was the solution to solving this issue. Through events in which Harry Potter fans meet up and play Quidditch, a wizarding game involving broomsticks, Quaffles (volleyball), Bludgers (dodgeballs), a snitch (tennis ball), and hoops, the leaders of the organization were able to spread the knowledge and word of the campaign by handing out their own boxes of fair trade chocolate frogs to young fans. The campaign named Not in Harry’s Name lasted for four years and eventually became a success when the Warner Bros. company made their Harry Potter-branded chocolate Fair Trade or Utz certified in December 2014. Furthermore, this campaign is only one of many that the HPA has created to address social issues around the world. Hence, in this way, the organization continues to showcase their outstanding use of technology in connecting people and allowing many to respond to acts of various empires.
Truly, without modern day technology, people subservient to the empire would not be able to speak out or respond to the empire’s regime. Communications technology has even become an integral part of education. Kids are learning to read so they can read to learn about important societal, economic, or political issues plaguing us today. From the period in which access to knowledge was limited to books and school, knowledge can now be found on any device with internet access. With communications technology, the foundations of the young generation today are more equitable and in turn, allows them to gain a certain amount of freedom from the restricting rule of empires around them. With technology comes the advent of the internet. The internet has allowed many people to use social media, news, and websites to express dissatisfaction, make connections, protest, make meaningful contributions, and/or possibly create their own empire. Thus, this unlimited access allows for not only the spread of good ideas but also the spread of bad, malicious ideas. Because the use of the internet is so widespread worldwide with approximately 3.2 billion users, malicious groups such as terrorists, cults, or other organizations can use it to gain followers and spread their beliefs. The internet can also be a place in which unscrupulous transactions involving human trafficking can be executed. Moreover, with the wide use of social media, cyberbullying is an issue that still occurs today. The internet, however, is just one of the wonderful or terrible creations of technology.
Technology, in general, has played a magnificent and/or cruel feat in taking jobs from many workers with new, advanced machines and has created new issues surrounding the technology among many other acts. These impacts on society have accrued the dissatisfaction from many influential figures. Some influential individuals and groups that argue against the spread of technology or anything related to modern civilization include Gandhi, Rousseau, and those who follow Neo-Luddism (a philosophy that opposes many forms of modern technology). Gandhi, for instance, argues that modern civilization has only induced indulgence, deepened slavery to modern civilization, and has spread immorality and selfishness in his famous book Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule.
“‘Western civilization is material, frankly material. It assures progress by the progress of matter – railways, conquest of disease, conquest of the air. These are the triumphs of civilization according to Western measure. No one says, ‘Now the people are more truthful or more humble'” (1)
He views doctors and the study of medicine as immoral due to vivisection in experiments and believes that treatment only makes people more reckless and careless. Rousseau also believes that the progress of civilization has made malicious impacts on lifestyles of humanity. He believes that with the creation of new technology, such as the printing press in his era, humanity will become idle and will value the opinion of others or amour-propre due to increasing means of living in luxury. Both Gandhi and Rousseau value one’s mentality or virtue over bodily comfort and anything that propagates the progress of immorality. Neo-Luddites follow Rousseau’s way of thinking. They believe in abandoning modern technology to return to a more primitive way of living. However, those who practice Neo-Luddism are not as against technology as Rousseau was, for Neo-Luddism is “based on the concern of the dangers of new technology to individuals, the community, and the environment”. For example, the impact of social media on the young generation or the effect of radioactive waves from phones towards health.
The wisdom and insights from these influential figures have some weight, however, they can only be taken with a grain of salt. Without society and civilization moving forward, people have become more adjusted to the goods and bads that come with technology. In fact, many groups and organizations strive to solve these issues. Some examples include taking action through securing privacy on the internet, counterattacking through campaigns, spreading awareness through advertisements, and/or simply avoiding these issues by spending less time on the internet. This avoidance includes spending less time using the phone for anything other than calling, but this is not so easily done since technology (especially communications tech) has become the center of our daily life. We are surrounded by technology and rather than avoiding it, we should use it with caution knowing the danger associated with it. Now that we live in an age in which communications technology has become a vital aspect of our life, so vital that we can’t possibly live without it, is this not another part of the cyclical life of mankind? We encounter something new. We welcome it. We are afraid of it. We then diverge into opponents and proponent groups. Some try to solve the problems that arise. Some shun the new addition. In the end, it becomes another part of our lives and another part of our history. Then, is communications technology not an empire that’s waiting to become a ruin in due time? Or is communications technology an empire that will last and evolve throughout time?
- ghandhifriends. “Gandhi Against Modernity- by Rex Ambler”. The Gandhi Foundation. 5 Jan. 1997, https://gandhifoundation.org/1997/01/05/gandhi-against-modernity-%E2%80%93-by-rex-ambler/