Technology from a Third World Perspective
by Jeremy Johnson
One of my goals in life is to help westerners, especially Americans, become less materialistic and gain a greater understanding of and develop a connection with their spiritual side. The effects of globalization on third world countries has had both positive and negative influences, such as bringing much needed medical care but destroying indeginious cultures in the process. One way I am helping reduce waste and cost is to eliminate using computers, both personal and laptop computers. What happens to a computer after it “dies?” Do you take it to a dump, a speciality site, a computer geek? Many are unaware that many dead computers are shipped overseas and dumped into landfills, not only to reduce cost but because of the potential harmful materials found in computer equipment.
Technology has become ingrained into the culture of America and many can never imagine doing without their laptop, iPod or desktop computer. I, myself, am currently pulling away from excessive technology and reducing myself to the use of a Droid phone to reduce waste and cost. As a Buddhist nun in training from the west I am required to give up all “worldly” possessions and technology, especially music and the internet, has been one of the most difficult for me.
Growing up I was exposed to technology at a young age and grew up with computers. Having a mild form of autism I was drawn to computers as a way to connect with other human beings. In this way, technology has offered a positive benefit to humanity: allowing those who were previously unable to socialize an opportunity to socialize via the internet. Technology has had a reverse effect on those without autism, though: children are now spending more time on computers and not with their families, less time in activities that are not related to computers and therefore may develop “autistic-like” symptoms though these symptoms cannot be called true autism.
Technology has both helped and hindered the poor in third world countries. In one vein medical care and education is more easily accessible to those who would otherwise have no access to care. In another vein it has caused excessive waste, a fact that many westerners are still largely unaware of. Computer gadgets are often shipped overseas where a few precious materials are extracted and the rest is dumped, often creating toxic waste.
Many humans, even young children, interact with technology in a way unheard of in the west. After computers are dumped workers, even children, can often be found in these dumps looking for a few materials to sell, exposing themselves to possibly deadly chemicals. I imagine that this is not what most have in mind when envisioning the future of the interaction of humans and machines.
As a Buddhist nun in training I see the value of technology but also how it can destroy important facets of humanity. I mainly use a Droid phone for all of my technological needs: I have access to the internet, music, video and everything I need. It is also portable and once disposed of will create minimal waste due to its size. I also do not update my technology every year or so: I plan to keep this Droid phone until it literally cannot work anymore, not to update to “better” technology.
Originally posted here.
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