What is the greatest challenge facing my generation today? I think this question gives a false premise; that there is any one challenge more important, and that the many challenges facing my generation are not intricately connected. Isolationism, intolerance, human environmental impact, global warming, political division, population growth, technology… you cannot look at any one of these issues without seeing others pulled in. For me, one of the greatest challenges facing my generation is technology, simply because technology affects so many other areas.
Technology has bridged the gap between people; I can text my parents, snapchat my streaks to a dozen friends, and engage in online combat with someone literally on the other side of the planet. I can instantly voice my opinions and share videos and connect with people. But technology gives a false sense of connection; the one-on-one interpersonal relationships that used to be the foundation of our lives are replaced by a quick text or a generic tweet.
I can get lost in technology, falling down a click-bait rabbit hole where one video leads to hours of streaming with no real purpose or benefit. And although I can instantly share information, I have to realize that once I share it, I cannot take it back. Without taking the time to reflect, I lose the ability consider both short and long-term consequences; my impulsiveness can affect my future in ways I haven’t had the time to ponder.
Environmentally, technology can devastate. I sit here composing this essay on a computer.
In my house alone, there is a desktop, 4 laptops, 5 tablets, 2 game systems, and countless other electronic devices. Each of these is constructed of metal, plastic, batteries, heavy metals, and other components that are not environmentally friendly or easily biodegradable. Each of these has a limited life span and will end up in a landfill within the next decade. And this is just one house. Also impacted are areas deforested and ravaged to mine materials, workers who endure inhumane conditions with low pay, and long-term environmental impacts. Factories pollute with little regulations, and as a consumer-based society we use and dispose faster than they can produce the next gadget, cosmetic, shoe or tv.
Technology can accomplish so much good; it has given us to access information in ways we could only dream about a century ago. We share medical resources, tips on growing crops and starting businesses; you name it, and there is a YouTube channel or website to tell you how to do it. Especially in isolated and developing regions, it has been a God send. However, there is a dark side to the sharing of information. Much of the information on the internet is not well regulated, and accessing the “dark” web is easy. Violence, pornography, human trafficking, terrorism – these are accessible with a few easy clicks, sometimes by people who are too young, disenfranchised or fragile to handle that information.
Finally, in opening up our homes to technology, particularly “smart” devices, we have found ways to stay connected and informed… but who is monitoring US? Again, everyone in my family has a smart phone and a connected smart device. Google mini wakes me up with a report on the weather, traffic for my drive to school, and a list of things to do from my calendar. But all this information is not just being accessed by me. When I google “wireless headphone” and suddenly little ads start to quietly pop-up, it is not a coincidence. Am I OK with my information being shared to drive my choices for products, causes, even political ideology?
In conclusion, I believe that a huge challenge for my generation is balancing the pros and cons of technology, and how it affects so many connected and far reaching issues in our lives. Learning to harness it’s benefits without losing sight of our global community, humanity and responsibility will be a developing challenge for generations to come.