Reply To: Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange

Start Forums Courses Current Debates and Themes in Global Environmental History Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange Reply To: Mon 3 March: Ecology, History and Unequal Exchange

Author Replies # Posted on March 4, 2014 at 14:02

A reflection of “technology” by Yongliang Gao

Hornborg’s perception towards technology reminds me the legitimacy of rethinking technology in three facets.

First of all, Hornborg and many others (including me) believe, technology is in close relation to money (in other words, ‘economy’ in Hornborg’s book). Since money can invest and innovate new technology and in turn, the new technology will become a powerful medium to make money. As a result, technology directly or indirectly causes or widens the gap between the rich and poor. Speaking on a global scale, technology, thus could be a good reason in explaining the lag-out of the developing countries and the ahead position of the developed nations. Hornborg interpreted this view in yesterday’s discussion by describing why the industrial revolution initiated in England not in China in the 19th century.

Second, Horborg reveals that technology is meaningful in certain manners considering the fact that it saves space and time. However, during yesterday’s discussion, many of us refuted this idea because when technology saves us time, we naturally expect to do more things, or say to do things more efficiently. Therefore, the time that technology saves is merely a physiological feeling, not the real time. As a consequence, technology on one hand is undeniably able to compress the time of doing things (think of the time differential using email and mail). On the other hand, nevertheless, technology is ‘evil’ in a degree as it triggers social problems. For instance, technology makes human beings increasingly inertia and inpatient. Despite the truth, in my opinion, it is of necessity to categorize technology before blaming its drawbacks. From my perspective, the social problems created by technology are generally unnecessarily required technology (i.e. the technology that fulfills entertaining purposes). A few technologies bring more benefits to us such as medical devices and transportation.

Last but most important, many scholars attribute technology to environmental degradation in an unreflective way. What I believe, however, it is not technology, but the insufficient technology that causes environmental problems. To exemplify, some argue that electronic companies cause electronic garbage as computers, phones and other electronic devices are buried in soil, which causes several environmental problems. My opinion is that if we possess advanced technology that is capable of recycling and reusing those metals, electronic components, wires, or whatever technology builds upon it, those environmental problems would never occur. Hence, instead of blaming technology for environmental problems, I would say, it is the inferior technology that we are currently using produces the environmental problems.