How assistive technology and the democratization of information speak to our basic instinct for survival through innovation.
We constantly hear the term' fight or flight (and now freeze)' used to describe self-preservation in terms of hard-wired human responses. It's these behaviors that supposedly keep us alive. But, should innovation be included in the idea of basic instincts? Does our fundamental drive for survival not inherently hinge on our ability to solve problems and innovate (Innovation in the collective brain, n.d.)?
Maybe the 22nd-century phrase for this idea should be 'fight, flight, freeze, or FIX.
When I think of world-changing technology that I consider to have a positive impact, this is how I approach the question-- What advancement has shown enough evidence that its existence dramatically outweighs the potential risks or downfalls of its creation? My first thought is anything within the realm of assistive technology, followed by tools that make knowledge more accessible.
Improvements for the few benefit the many.
While humans have used various tools to aid with disabilities since ancient history, the 'first' widely accepted assistive technology is the wheelchair (Wikimedia Foundation, 2023c): a rudimentary device, a platform on wheels documented in China around the 6th Century B.C.(Ruscoe, 2019). It represented more than technological advancement; instead, it highlighted the understanding of a collective perspective on preservation. By aiding those with mobility impairments, the wheelchair enabled more individuals to contribute to society in potentially meaningful ways (Editorial, 2021).
Access to information equals societal transformation.
I view the democratization of information through the same lens. The development of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press in the mid-1400s allowed an unprecedented number of individuals to engage with and contribute to societal transformation (Wikimedia Foundation, 2023a). By increasing literacy and providing a low barrier to entry by sharing information at scale, the accessibility of knowledge was no longer controlled by the academic and elite population. The rapid production of the printed word also spoke to the evolution of a collective consciousness that sought to solve societal problems beyond basic needs (Wikimedia Foundation, 2023b).
As we continue to advance and push the boundaries of what is possible, innovations that offer the most significant impact on society shed light on our basic instincts. Whether it's the need to help each individual contribute in meaningful ways or improve the quality of life for humanity, we find ourselves moving past purely self-serving outcomes. Ultimately, our drive to fix, adapt, and improve will continue to propel progress and ensure a future for humanity.
Editorial, C. (2021, October 22). Accessible design benefits everyone. Medium. https://uxdesign.cc/accessible-design-benefits-everyone-3ffe03d58213
Innovation in the collective brain | philosophical transactions of the ... (n.d.). https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2015.0192
Ruscoe, G., Posted by Glenn Ruscoe Glenn is a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist working in private practice in Perth, Ruscoe, P. by G., Glenn is a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist working in private practice in Perth, & Posts, A. (2019, May 28). History of the wheelchair. HISTORY.PHYSIO. https://history.physio/history-of-the-wheelchair/
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023a, September 4). Printing press. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023b, September 11). Democratization of knowledge. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratization_of_knowledge
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023c, September 19). Wheelchair. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheelchair