Reflections on Progress: Looking Back and Into the Future
The recent USA Today article by Kevin Maney, “A look back at many years of stops along ‘information superhighway’” charts the rapid pace of technological development as it relates to human development. In doing so, Maney’s reflections on a decade of tech improvements caused me to ponder a question worth answering: How sustainable is our progress?
Prior to the seventeenth century, continued and sizeable development of any kind was a rarity. As humans evolved into more complex creatures, though, so did their environment. The nineteenth century was marked by the Industrial Revolution, a complete shift in living conditions. During this time, an industry of manual labor was replaced by one dominated by manufacturing and most importantly: machinery. This, in my opinion, was the inauguration of our techno-centric world and the point of departure in creating many devices we use today. The impact of this change on society was enormous and had never been similarly experienced.
When humanity welcomed the second millennium, we were preoccupied with fears that our technology would fail us, a.k.a. Y2K. Many were certain that our inextricably, computer-linked world would come to an end. It did not, but was humanity correct in fearing the extent of our progress?
In August of 2005, space shuttle commander Eileen Collins told Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that astronauts could, “see widespread environmental destruction on Earth”. NASA, perhaps the signal marker of human exploration, development and technology, looked down on human civilization and saw tangible evidence of abuse, of limits reached, of regrettable achievement. When the legacy of human improvement becomes clearly visible from space, I start asking questions along the lines of: where are we going with our progress?
Maney’s article encouraged me to think about human advancement and question the direction we are heading. Working in PR provides me a unique view of demands that drive the market. We are hungry for superlatives: the newest, fastest, most advanced. These are products that make life easier, content more accessible, and humanity more advanced. Let us continue to admire, work for, and celebrate our progress while remaining equally cognizant of where we have been and where we are going.