THE BLOG
07/21/2014 11:32 am ET Updated Sep 20, 2014

Why Technology Can't Save Us From Ourselves -- Yet...

There's an age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, that poses a philosophical inquiry into existence and cause. Being able to understand what started something helps us to realize how something began and where it came from. When we look at technology, we have a light understanding of its beginnings and the causes behind them. Technology is cool, its the "in" thing, and it makes our life better. So how then does technology lose it's ability to prevent humanity from shooting itself in the foot? Why can't technology save us from ourselves?

Man started developing technology as a tool during the stone age. Tools like spears and axes would help cavemen to catch and eat food. Later in the iron age, man would develop industrial technology for weapons of war by forging swords and shields out of iron and other metals. Further still in time we saw the development of industry -- the machine age would allow us to do more and be more productive in our quest to make and sell more things. Fast forward into today, and we see electronics technology being leveraged and combined with machines to create smart cellphones, smart cars, and even smart appliances.

So with all of this great technology at our fingertips, what's to prevent us from screwing ourselves? It's humanity itself.

Humans are inherently flawed. We are not computers, and we are not perfect. Many would and do argue that machines and computers are the more perfect versions of us, but it is us who currently control technology, and therein lies the problem. A radar-guided missile system can be accurate to within mere meters of a target miles away, yet when a human pushes the button, the loss of an innocent commercial jetliner ensues. We have smart cars that can almost drive themselves, yet so many people die each year to drunk drivers and red-light runners. We have technology that can sense the existence of bacterium in food, yet we constantly hear about people re-labeling expired meat or shipping tainted food because they weren't paying attention or else they were trying to cheat the system to make an extra dollar.

The limit of technology today is that it is still under human control, which means that any dummy with access to a control button can cause a major disaster, regardless of how advanced the technology in his hands might be. We are a society of mammals who know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to save ourselves from ourselves. All technology can do is sit and wait for it's button to be pushed, while humanity continues to allow tragedies to occur -- in effect relegating technology to simply watch helplessly.

But it appears that companies like Google have seen the light, as they develop self driving cars. New technologies are slowly evolving to take some of humanity's imperfections away from humans. But until technology is given the ability to stop humans from doing stupid things, we will continue to be at the mercy of ourselves. Time will reveal how much effort humanity places in developing life-saving technologies versus technology that merely looks cool and makes more sales dollars.

It leaves one to ask what is the value of technology, if it can't prevent us from killing ourselves...