As Technologies Advance, We Drowse

How the glorious triumph of technologies redefines our culture

Be Unique
Published in
7 min readMay 18, 2021


We have to admit the fact that our world has become a place riddled with sophisticated technological artifacts that are largely incomprehensible to us. I used to take these words less seriously than they deserve. It’s safe to say that few of us can confidently explain the internals of a modern computer, how the engine of an airplane works, and what structure a skyscraper should employ to be able to stand erect. In seeing such complexity, we are inexplicably drawn into the beauty of the modern world. We trust and embrace the technologies wholeheartedly under its dazzlement. And therein lies the problem.

The story began on an ordinary day at work. We had a little divergence in the process of development. When making a decision on how a core feature should be realized, the team went for a different implementation that seemed odd to me. The decision itself is trivial for the time being, but it’s the reason they gave for opting for one approach instead of another that gave rise to an epiphany that couldn’t have come to me before I stepped into the field of computer science.

In short, my approach was rejected because of some unusual use cases from which no sane users would really benefit, and also because, more implicitly, my approach was technologically naive. The preferred approach, or the doctrine, is to integrate more libraries and functionalities. But this also creates more problems that shouldn’t have existed otherwise.

My simpler and more “humane” approach was declined, even though it results in a more straightforward, by which I mean more reliable, execution plan. The issue was peacefully but not thoroughly resolved under the manager’s reconciling, but that decision hinted at an underlying change so much more profound. The reason we create and develop products is no longer just for users or customers, but also to quench our own lust for something inhumane: fast, precise, and callous machinery.

It shocks me quite often that people don’t seem to care about this bizarre phenomenon. Jobs in any field of modern technology are more complex than before. No doubt they require some esoteric ways of thinking that a layperson cannot readily understand. But this transformation, unfortunately, is also framing and shaping our own thoughts. We are deprived of thinking about the product from the most original and humane aspect. The intricacy of code is so weirdly mechanical and exciting (at least for some of us), that our attention has been shifted away from the big picture, and thus we lose sight of our most genuine purpose for what we do. In a word, the technologies we work on are not only for the sake of humans or nature but also, progressively, for accomodating the machinery itself. Our cultures have developed a tendency to succumb to technologies.

I daily engage in the ever-changing affairs of technology, but this mere title of developer does not, and should not, grant such a person any special supremacy whatsoever. I never cease to marvel at the prestige and glory some developers can demand given their mastery of the most advanced machinery.

On a larger scale, IBM announced its first 2 nm chip technology, reviving Moore’s Law once again. The world today, regardless of where you live, is witnessing a total triumph of technologies, and accompanying that is the inevitable decline of our culture. Some mysteriously collective force is taking us towards an unknown destination yet in unwavering strides.

This phenomenon was quite peculiar to me at first. When I just began to learn to code, one amusing but confusing sentence on my textbook would read like this: “By adding a feature that was elegant and interesting rather than needed, has Java started down the road to ruin which has afflicted so many other languages?” Years later I begin to understand this doubt. I am quite provoked by the now widespread Zeitgeist that we need to cram our artifact with advanced technologies and fancy techniques which ultimately yield no better experience and become a burden in the development.

I was intrigued when that night YouTube recommended a documentary, in which a young cuckoo bird, minutes after its birth in a nest of reed warblers, was driven by its predestined fate to push out the eggs of the baby reed warblers. The point here is not only how a cuckoo is so sordidly wired as to cruelly nip his unborn competitors in the bud. Nor is it simply how, under the trance of the cuckoo’s shriek, the foster parents cannot see through the manipulator’s obvious disguise and continue feeding it as though it is their child. What I want to drive hard at here now is how foreign, alienating, and odd this natural process must have seemed. The world has been drastically and completely embellished by human artifacts, insomuch that nature becomes so distant from us but our machinery closely intimate.

Cuckoo is pushing an egg out of the nest. Source: by Artur Homan on YouTube

What is so dangerous about technology, if it cannot serve people properly with a function and only for that purpose? In a technocracy, technology just serves as a vital part of making our lives easier and efficient, but never dictates our manners or culture. In a Technopoly, as Postman warned, our ultimate goal equates to relentless progress in techniques and machinery.

To pre-empt any accusation, I must admit that I am fully aware of the fact that technologies have been a huge boon to our lives. This is, in fact, what drove me to major in engineering in the first place. It is only after some experience in this field, do I begin to notice a strange and compulsive propensity to abuse technologies.

In a healthy technocracy, humans make apt use of technology to achieve some goals, probably more efficiently and easily. In a Technopoly, on the other hand, technology usurps, or at least weakens, our position as human, and demands us to adapt to it, rather than reversely. It greatly alters our thinking and conception about the world, by imposing on us its mechanical idiosyncrasies. It is not merely a tool to facilitate a humane goal of ours, but a looming and complex system that reorganizes and redefines our perception of just about everything. And I believe we do not recognize even partly its implications, like Postman pointed out more than 30 years ahead of us, “there is only a dull and even stupid awareness of what it is”. This change was taking place then, and I believe it is still happening right now.

I might be accused of being a Luddite, despite my major in a technophile-gathering field. But all I hope to promote here is that any new ways or techniques of doing things must be checked meticulously before they can be admitted. The ramifications of any new technology are not easy to revert. I am also often confronted with the condemnation that I am reluctant to adapt to a changing environment, which now has become a sacrosanct creed of the tech industry. I hope to quote Postman again as a response, “adaptation ought not to be equated with sanity.”

Humans are capable of adapting to various things. However, this still makes it possible to have an industry of adapters who are rather insane. It is our job to think for ourselves to examine and scrutinize any adaptation that menaces to impose its influence on us. What does this technology give to us and, more importantly, what does it take away? What invisible price do we have to pay for it? In this article, I intend to broadcast and amplify such questions that should have been asked a long time ago.

Perhaps a metaphor could help illustrate the point.

We are like the parent reed warbles that tenderly try to hatch our precious eggs: our humanity, technology, and culture. Then a slightly larger egg is dropped into our nest, which is called Technopoly. It hatches earlier than others, as is programmed. Even in its infancy, it attempts to do one thing: kill all other eggs. We as unfortunate foster parents do not notice that our biological eggs have been weeded out, and the enticing and unbearable squeal of Technopoly forces us to fetch all the food or social wherewithal we can to sate its insatiable appetite. Then it grows larger by the blind virtue of our generosity and finally flies off to some remote land. And we are cast aside with an empty nest and can only wonder: what happened to our technology, culture, and humanity?

References and Citations

  1. Postman, N. (1993). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage.
  2. Dawkins, R. (2016). The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Oxford Landmark Science) (Reprint ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.
  3. Thoreau, H. D. (2017). Walden: or, Life in the Woods. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  4. Horstmann, C. (2018). Core Java Volume I — Fundamentals (Core Series) (11th ed.). Pearson.
  5. kuldeep. (2021b, January 29). Neil Postman — Effects of Technology on psychological world of Civil Society (1998). YouTube.