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The World of Technology

October 3, 2008 by  
Filed under lifestyle


If there’s one thing that surrounds us almost everywhere we go, it’s modern technology. The fast-paced, computerized age we live in has become a part of our everyday lives – and it’s only getting faster. Many of us can’t go one hour, let alone one day, without using it. Whether sending a text message, checking the latest weather report, or buying groceries online, we’re constantly making use of technology. With different variations at every turn, we have to wonder: Is it good or bad?

Take stem cell research, for example. Technology and modern science have made it possible to remove stem cells from a human embryo, and transform them into useful cells and organ tissue. This means scientists could be able to achieve incredible new advances, such as repairing a liver, instead of replacing it. The problem is, creating stem cells means destroying an embryo, which pro-life groups view as a violation of human life.

Looking to the future, modern technology might give us a middle ground. According to Dr. Derek van der Kooy, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, “Stem cells are the future of regenerative medicine.” With the development of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS cells), it is possible to obtain stem cells without killing an embryo. They could then be reprogrammed, and used to replace whatever is missing in a sick or afflicted person. “Retinal stem cells,” says van der Kooy, “have the ability to make new photo receptors, and in the long run, could regenerate vision in blind people.”

So how would this new technology affect pro-life and religious groups? “Contrary to what many people may have heard,” says Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto, “the Catholic Church is not against stem cell research. We support stem cell research taken from umbilical cords and adult stem cells. We do not support embryonic stem cell research, due to our long-standing belief that human life is sacred from the moment of conception.” Regardless of why a person might need stem cells, the technology raises a number of issues that need to be considered.»»

Another area in technological change is the use of cell phones by children and teenagers. From its development in the 1970s, the cell phone was originally a luxury held in the hands of major Wall Street executives. As convenient size and affordability made the technology more widespread, it became a common tool to have in case of an emergency. And then, somewhere along the line, something happened that caused 3.3 billion people, or half the world’s population, to own a cell phone. Today, every 12 year-old and their dog likely have one. Now that can’t be bad, can it?

If you ask Jacquie Ream, author of K.I.S.S. – Keep it Short and Simple, you might find cause for concern. “We have a whole generation being raised without communication skills,” she says. “Feelings aren’t communicated in words when you’re texting; kids are typing shorthand jargon that isn’t even a complete thought.” The habitual slang developing with cell phones isn’t just a trend, but the beginning of a generation that can’t express itself. “If we let these kids get caught up in technology,” says Ream, “we will loose out on great words, thoughts and novels that will never be written.” And that’s probably the worst of it – you would hope.

The reality is, teenaged children are doing much more than texting jargon. With standardized built-in cameras, it’s not uncommon to have a teenager who, for whatever reason, is persuaded into sending semi-nude photos to a friend or admirer. Then again, a picture might be taken unsuspectingly, such as in a school change room. The photographer can then send it anywhere, to any audience. So the obvious solution would be to limit or restrict cell phones.

Except last year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actually looked at the possibility of rewarding students with cell phones and free minutes. Suggested by a Harvard economist, the idea aimed at giving children incentives for studying and doing well on standardized tests. It opened up a whole new set of doors, including issues of safety and security when it comes to cell phone technology.
Of course, technology comes in many forms. Looking at the Internet, we find a system of interconnected computer networks, spanning across the globe. Like any form of technology, it’s a tool, with many purposes. And just like cell phones, kids use the Internet as another way to communicate.

One of the most recent issues is the topic of cyber-bullying – sending cruel or harmful messages using the Internet or other digital communication devices. It’s emerging as one of the most challenging problems facing educators and parents, since it can be done from anywhere, at any time. According to Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Robyn MacEachern, a youth issues coordinator of the Crime Prevention Section, “To insult someone I don’t have to immediately fear the other person’s reaction, so it can be easier when hiding behind a keyboard.”

The new form of bullying is alarming, because it doesn’t end on the playground. Children and teenagers no longer have the comfort of a home or safe haven away from school. “In cyber-bullying,” says MacEachern, “the limits of how technology is used are endless – everything from sending insulting e-mails, spreading rumors, creating sites to make fun of someone, sending embarrassing
photos – the list of possibilities goes on and grows as technology gives us even greater ways to connect.”

As the Internet continues to expand, new possibilities call for new solutions. “Most kids won’t tell when things go wrong online, because they’re afraid their parents will shut them off the Internet, and shutting down is only a band aid,” says MacEachern. Instead, other options are available, including education for parents, placing the computer in an open area, monitoring chats through tracking software, and most importantly, discussing bullying and online etiquette. By speaking in advance, parents and children can come to a consensus about what should happen if a problem arises.
With the rapid advancements taking place in technology, there’s one thing we can be sure of – it’s here to stay. And while we might not know the direction it’s heading, being vigilant is probably the best course of action. After all, technology can’t be looked at as either good or bad, but as another tool humankind uses everyday. Like any device, it can be used for positive or negative results.

But for as many negative purposes technology might have, there are an equal amount of positive ones. New developments in stem cell research are taking us into a world where diseases like Parkinson’s might be gone for good. With cell phones and web cameras, families can stay connected because parents who work overseas can see and kiss their children. And if your child is suddenly in a car accident, a cell phone might mean the difference between life and death. When it comes to the Internet, the possibilities for good are endless, from sharing educational ideas, to organizing charitable causes. With any form of technology, it’s not so much the use that matters – it’s the user.


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