It is irrefutable that our digital devices bring a number of negative influences into our lives and the lives of our children. Social isolation, incalculable amounts of time wasted in mindless phone and computer games, over simplification of complex issues on social media sites, loss of privacy, false news stories that mislead the public, identity theft and other cybercrimes, and the growing threat of malware are serious concerns. Perhaps most alarming: We should all cringe as we see small children virtually stupefied while watching another evening of television programs educating them to be avid but discontented consumers.
However, I believe the positive benefits of our digital devices, our vehicles into the i-World, continue to far outweigh those ominous negatives. In one short generation, the advances brought about by the explosion of technology has changed our self-image, our expectations, and our society. Self-actualization, the highest level of Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs, is dramatically more attainable for more individuals than ever before in history.
Let me offer five examples:
1) We live in a golden age for self-education. For thousands of years, men have dreamed of and worked for means of universally acquiring and distributing knowledge. Educational and communications resources are now instantly available to us through our digital devices. And they are not limited to the wealthy, highly educated, or urban populations; they are available for nearly everyone.
2) Enhanced productivity brought about by our technological advances have made the individual today able to do the work of several workers in the past. Plus, many of the most boring, repetitive, and trivial tasks can be done for us by a computer in moments.
3) The internet offers an opportunity for connectedness with similar individuals regardless of physical distance. In our globalized digital world, a person on another continent is as accessible as one in the next room. No longer will physical distance keep individuals from finding others with common interests and values. We are ending the lament, “No one understands me.”
4) The prevalence of powerful recording devices in everyone’s pocket, plus the ability to distribute those videos with anonymity, means a personal accountability in our society - and especially among our leaders - which was unknown in previous eras. Now, we must adapt our thinking and our behaviors as we enter a world where “the night has a thousand eyes.”
5) Self-publishing of ebooks, blogs, social media accounts, and other forms of personal expression are made possible by new technologies. From creative fiction to memoirs to daily accounts of our events and reflections, we can record our lives and thoughts, and make them available to posterity.
There are many other valuable, amazing contributions made by our digital devices, and the coming years are sure to bring even greater technological wonders that will delight and astound us. There will undoubtedly be a corresponding increase in digital abuses and dangers but the positive features will continue to make our lives more comfortable, more productive, and more fulfilling. Fueled by new technologies, our quality of life and our standard of living should both continue to rise. Our greatest challenge as individuals, parents, and teachers is to choose wisely how we will enter this new digital era.