Today, we have guided missiles but unguided men.
Its interesting to note that in almost every second article, every conference, every gathering, technology is considered to be the Holy Grail and is projected as the silver bullet for all kind of social, economic, environmental and human psychological problems. Each one of us young or old is being religiously encouraged to code, to learn how to design apps, to invent something or the other.
Being an engineer myself, I don’t want to underplay or undervalue the role of technology in any way. But in awe of the latest technological accomplishments, I also wouldn’t want to miss the fact that almost of our problems or crisis(environmental, geo-political conflicts, terrorism, financial crisis, racism)are man-made and NOT due to lack of technology. Technology to a large degree is able to address the symptoms of these man-made problems or can provide a reactive solution but has severe limitations in addressing the root cause — the human nature.
We need technology to play a role in the interim and win the battle but the war can be won only if we concentrate on the human nature.
Few very simple observations will illustrate the point further —
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans. and is the 4th leading cause of death for adults ages 18–65.(CDC) US is arguably leading on the technological innovation front and has some of the most promising tech startups and scientific institutions but still someone gives up his/her life every 12.3 minutes in the country. While technology can and is playing a role in preventing these suicides but a large part of success depends on strengthening social fabric, our human network and our emotional engagements.
- Increasing instances of terrorist attacks and related casualties again point out to a human crisis with religious and political origin. The western world is no more insulated from the curse of terrorism and is feeling the burnt with more attacks and deadlier attacks being planned targeting innocent civilians in those countries.
The underlying cause of these terrorist attacks is not lack of technology but a decline in empathy and rise of fundamentalism. This radicalism is led by humans and only aided by technology to certain degree. Same principle would be applicable to the solution as well — we need to transform the human being with or without technology.
- Another crisis brewing in form of healthcare and social burden is heavy consumption of Tobacco/Alcohol and even substance abuse. Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States and counter-intuitively is not restricted to poor or young only. 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older. Also, it is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes. In 2010, Binge drinking was responsible for a loss of $191 billion in US alone in the form of losses in productivity, health care, crime, and other expenses. (1) While Cigarette consumption in India is falling steadily, the number of women smokers is rising, making it home to the second largest number of female smokers after the United States. The Tobacco Atlas estimates that lung cancer is now killing more women than breast cancer (2) and smoking rates are particularly increasing among young girls in many countries.
To address all these challenges Technology will play a key role but the approach needs to be Human-centric.
Better leaders at home, schools and other institutions with a systemic understanding of how to lead a balanced, healthy and cheerful life can help this world become a better place. With more thoughtful and considerate population, the world would have far fewer crisis in the first place and we may have a more stable, happy and sustainable world.