Technology

Is new technology good or bad?

I remember this question being asked a lot when I was growing up. At that time, the particular technology people mainly had in mind was nuclear. There were great hopes of "free energy" from nuclear power stations - electricity so cheap that it didn't make sense to charge for it - and at the same time there were huge existential fears about the possible effects of an exchange of nuclear warheads between the super powers of the Cold War.

One set of people were arguing vociferously that the new technology was a colossal boon for mankind. The other set of people were arguing that the new technology was the invention of the devil.

 

My conclusion as I entered my teenage years was that both sets were wrong and that any given technology is not in itself good or bad but, rather, something that can be put either to good or bad purposes.

On the whole, I still take that same view. But I have to admit that internet technology (whose founders have just won the first ever Queen Elizabeth II prize for engineering) has come as near as anything could get to persuade me that there is such a thing as an intrinsically good technological advance. The internet has opened up such wide vistas and given so many hundreds of millions of people access to information that they never could have dreamed of having before.

But I had a little reminder recently that the general rule does in fact apply in this domain also.

Strangely, this was provided by courtesy of Dorset Echo's excellent on-line service. I found myself being contacted by a constituent who had spotted a comment from someone pretending to be me on the Dorset Echo website.

I am grateful to the Echo for arranging to remove this entirely phoney comment at high speed. But its brief appearance made me realise that, in principle, it is now possible for a fraudster to reach a wide audience on the basis of pretending to be anybody, and without all the expense and complication which the same fraudster would have encountered if they had wanted to behave in the same way using the less advanced technologies of yesteryear.