Information Technology and the Social Environment

           The commissioner of the Patent Office, Henry L. Ellsworth, in his 1843 report to Congress, included the following comment: The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.  When Commissioner Ellsworth did resign in 1845, his letter of resignation certainly gave no indication that he was resigning because he thought there was nothing left for the Patent Office to do.* Unlike Ellsworth prediction, the patent world underwent such a dramatic explosion since 1843, which granted a patent for the first fax system issued to the Scotsman Alexander Bain, and, the first design patent to the inventor in 1843, in which today we find more than 250,000 patents granted under this category.  

When Samuel Morse invented the first telegraph in 1840, the thinkers of that age believed that ‘now our world problems would be solved’, but rather this world faced, since that time, devastating turmoil and turbulences resulted in chaos and frustration in the social order and people’s attitude toward life, which were never been recorded or witnessed in the history of human kind, to the extent that the existing worldly institutions are lamentably defective to provide effective and efficient remedy to these sophisticated problems. 

It was such a big news, when the World Wide Web was developed in 1989 by English computer scientist Timothy Berners-Lee to enable information to be shared among internationally dispersed teams of researchers; and in that same year, on November 9, 1989, the border separating Western from Eastern Germany was effectively opened.  These events rejoiced the people of the world with such a delight of the mind that created comfort in the hearts of mankind.  To the contrary, we also remember the tragedy on June 3, 1989, where the heart-breaking event happened in the Chinese Capital, Beijing.  Fully armed soldiers killed thousands of people, most of them innocent civilians.  In that same year, there was another happening, which challenged the morality of human beings, in which a gay-marriage has been a reality in the Scandinavia and 11 couples married in Denmark.  These light and dark events illustrate the body politic of the world of humanity at that time, which paints the objective reality of our world not only of that time, but also of the far past, the present and the future as well.  At present, man is living in ‘constructive and destructive’ way of thinking and way of life than ever.

            The happening in this world sparks in one aspect the light of hope, but in other aspect darken our hearts with fear and frustration, whose magnitude and effect is yet hard to scale.  The theatrical games of such events in this world, the integration and disintegration of processes between systematized and organized way of living combined with spontaneous and emotional actions and reactions, resulted to the people of the world in a direction which is so confusing and in a hope that vanishes after each second.  Such a dilemma in life is indeed a reflection of the personality of the world of human beings, whose fate, at one side, is colored by the products of the intellects and, at another, by the exercise of the moral choices of few individuals, mainly, who has authority and power over all. 

         Information Technology (IT) is the leading field that humanity excelled above all others, especially in networking the entire Homo sapiens to be more closely than ever.  It is in a such fascinating time man is living, where the daily inventions in the industry of Information Technology make our life very simple and easy.  Needless to mention the user group, which is mainly dependent on one’s income, the existence of such industry creates comfort in our mentality, which illustrates in our mind, “we have a bright future”.  It is indeed imperative to mention, this field has evolved to such magnificent revolutionizing our languages, jargons and social make up.  Information Technology has played a vital role in the advancement of human society from one stage of development to the other, but also does have other consequences it resulted in its interaction within society. 

          Such a marvelous achievement, man has obtained from the exercise of his mental faculty, which permits us to deduce “there is nothing impossible‎” in the scope, but the consequences that we have been through are something that need due consideration.  As a result of such inventions, our knowledge and perception toward the nature of man is becoming so pragmatic, in which we tend to believe, the only values of man are the products of the intellect, but rather it demands another perspective that science and his inventions do not provide.  

         We live in an age where scientific discoveries are highly sophisticated and complex.  This complexity does not help us to solve the many complicated and complex social issues of our time; rather we live in an age where chaos and confusions have never reigned in such magnitude than before.  Why do such crisis get deeper as the inventions in the information technology moves so fast?  Why are both directly related, where the more the inventions, and the worse the complications in the world? WHY?

          It seems both have direct relation in this world.  But the strange thing, when man reaches to the highest level of such discoveries, his capacity to analyze theories and issues should be super, and he was supposed to provide the necessary relevant solutions to the afflicting society, otherwise inventions by themselves would be futile.  In a very fact, nations and leader’s of societies play a vital role in transforming the society and providing effective solutions and remedies to the afflicted society.  The relationship between the two is such a drama that needs conscious and concerted effort to link and integrate them for further possible positive interactions. 

It is very essential to reorient our selves towards the attitudes and conceptions we have in our minds about the nature of man.  Man is a noble being wherever one is borne and every thing is created for him, to train himself and develop qualities that are essential for his life.  If we want the world to be a safe place, we have to accept the dignity of human beings every where in the world, without discriminating, trained or untrained, wealth or rich, man or woman, child or adult, black or white, healthy or sick, and the like.  Our discoveries and inventions should help us not only developing creative mental capabilities but also an understanding of those valuable and precious natures of human beings, whose inherent potentialities are the very cause of one’s life.  The whole purpose of invention or discovery, which can be endless, should link all of us to a conception and perception that ‘human beings no matter which place they live’, they are one same beings—Homo Sapiens, other wise the gap we are creating due to the exercise of our faculties should not mislead us, as if others are incapable. 

            The essential integration between emotions of the mind [faith] and intelligence [reason] is indeed very necessary.  One should support the other, other wise reason by itself leads to chaos, and faith by itself orients to superstitions and degradation of human rational faculties.  One point to mark, science should understand that human nature is not only intellectual but also spiritual, and unless this nature is clearly and practically realized, our actions and reactions in this world would be futile. 

            As Information Technology is pressing on ward, networking the people of the world to be as one family members; our social problems are getting so complicated, forcing us to sit down and discuss together, for many of the problems are not the issue of one country, rather, they are the concerns of many nations.  Challenges are creating a network, as IT does, between nations and societies, which demand the need for working together, the need for friendship and cooperation, and the need for global actions.  We do not need to think globally and act locally, but we need to think and act globally.

          To sum up, the IT world needs spirituality, which does not belong to any church or mosque.  We need human-values that serve as a link between our material civilization and social civilization.  The spiritualization of Information Technology is indeed highly critical.  IT has to be baptized by the popes of its god, and should be reborn in value.

* Samuel Sass, the Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 13 (spring 1989) pp. 310-313.

 Written by Dereje Amera

The views reflected in the above article  are solely of the author and are not necessarily shared by Meskot.  You may contact Dereje Amera  for comments at .