The Effects of High Technology on the Human Condition
This essay is about a topic close to my heart. I have been involved in the use of computers for over fifteen years now and I have young children who want to spend all their time in front of a computer, television or video screen. I do not intend to suggest that we remove all technology and revert to completely simple lives, but rather that we need to have balance and not allow technology to rob us of our health and vitality as well as our connectedness to nature and our fellow human beings.
For a culturally relevant reference to this topic I would like to turn our focus for a moment to a recent movie by the name of Wall-e. In brief, it is about a robot whose mission in life is to clean up the planet after we have made it into a techno garbage dump. Humanity had to leave the planet in order to find a more suitable habitation. On the journey, technologically advanced robots saw to our every need and in fact pampered mankind so much that we became completely dependent on their care. After centuries of living in micro-gravity, the humans aboard the Axiom (our spacecraft) have lost considerable bone mass, rendering us too obese to stand or move without robotic assistance (Wall-e, 2008). Eventually, through the help of Wall-e and his futuristic robot friend, we humans return to the earth and start planting food and rebuilding not only the earth but our technologically degenerate lives. This is a rather humorous but serious tail reflecting the direction of humanity if we do not pay attention to the balance of nature and technology in our lives.
One of the biggest factors relating to our overall health in relation to high technology is the time it takes and activities we miss while utilizing these technological wonders. Years ago, before computers, televisions and electricity, people worked, played and lived very actively in tune with nature. Their bodies were strong from use; their minds were inspired by the wonders of the natural universe around them. They got the appropriate amount of rest, instead of staying up all hours of the night. Then along came the discovery of electricity and with it many technological wonders. With light at any hour of the night, we don’t sleep as we should. We find our mental and physical stimulus in a television or computer screen, with keyboards and video gaming consoles. We drive in our cars and think it inconvenient that we should have to walk to the mail box. We visit nature primarily thru the “nature channel” and rarely step out into the wild.
Here are a few statistics from the National Institute on Media and the Family. “Children, ages 8 to 18, spend more time (44.5 hours per week) in front of computer, television, and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping.” “Approximately 30.3% of children (ages 6 to 11) are overweight and 15.3% are obese. For teens (12 to 19) the rate is almost identical: 33.4% overweight and 15.5% obese. Further the incidence of Type II diabetes in children, the diabetes linked with obesity has increased significantly in the past few decades. (©National Institute on Media and the Family)”.
The Centers for Disease Control outline the benefits of regular physical activity for children: (©National Institute on Media and the Family)
• Improves strength and endurance
• Build healthy bones, muscles, and joints
• Control weight, build lean muscle, and reduce fat
• Reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem and overall energy
• Improve blood pressure and cholesterol
• Prevents disease and promotes health
So what are we to do about this? Do we succumb to the lure of a technological world of wonder and become subject to a life of ill-health and ease? Or, should we eliminate the modern conveniences that have put us at ease? I think the solution is to balance technology with the human condition. Utilize the tools that humanity has discovered. Remember, we live in a natural world with very natural human needs. These needs being: good natural foods, fresh air, clean water, interaction with nature, exercise, human kindness and association with our fellow human beings. Let’s not forget to walk out in this wonderful world we are a part of, to take care of our environment so we can continue to enjoy good health and prosperity and to share in its goodness with each other and future generations.
Royce A. Bivens
©National Institute on Media and the Family. (n.d.). Media use and obesity among children. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from mediafamily.org: http://www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_tvandobchild.shtml (not currently available) see new site for revelant info: www.parentfurther.com
Wall-e. (2008). Retrieved August 24, 2008, from Wikipedia.com: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WALL-E