The Technological Scourge


March 30 , 2019 . By Tsion Fisseha



The answers to how to get pearly whites, lose weight in 30 days or the inner workings of a light bulb are a click away in this day and age, thanks to a marvellous invention known as the internet.

It is now tremendously easy to connect, no matter the distance, or learn new hobbies and skills without having to spend a dime or get off the couch. Knowledge is just a wi-fi and a smartphone away.

The internet, in the form we have come to recognise it today, has come a long way from its inception in the 1960s as a seemingly nondescript project for the United States’ military. It is easy to use and understand, and those smart enough to manipulate it are today some of the most influential individuals and entities in the world.

Nonetheless, the internet, despite all of its advantages, comes with a great deal of baggage. Like almost every invention by humankind, it has a dark side. It has become a weapon of destruction both in the physical and emotional sense.

For one thing, it has single-handedly ensured the eradication of the concept of privacy. It has manipulated its users into believing that all the information that is put in the various applications are in a safe environment without explaining the fact that there is no guarantee that that information will not be used against them at any time.

An example of this was political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica’s use of millions of people’s personal data on Facebook without their consent. The information was used for political purposes, a worrying instance that can seriously impede nation-building and democracy in developing countries.

Even though this data manipulation was found and Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testified and apologised in front of the United States Congress, it is still daunting to think of the power that technology companies now have.

The internet has also become a platform for political and social activists. The internet has proven itself a force for positive change. It has also shown it can serve the opposite purpose, wreaking havoc on social harmony.

Ethiopians should now be well aware of this fact. It is hard to log into Facebook or Twitter these days with all the negativity taking place. Social media sites have been infected with extremism. And even though agendas such as the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements have created a platform of openness, other movements have been used to spread hatred and anger among constant users.

The internet has also become the reason behind the emotional distress and depression of millions of users. There are too many examples of research on social media’s harm to mental health at this point, making them something of a cliché.

The internet is no longer a luxury but almost a necessity in the day-to-day activity of its users. It has made life much easier by allowing almost everything to be a click away. It has made fame less complicated and human interaction to be less of a priority. But the same platform, if not used properly, can bring about damage to civilisation, which took millennia to bring to its current state.

“Every time there’s a new tool, whether it’s [the] internet or cell phones or anything else, all these things can be used for good or evil. Technology is neutral; it depends on how it’s used,” said Rick Smolan, a famous photographer and co-author of “The Human Face of Big Data.”

If what was created as a benefit for the human race is not used wisely, it could be a tool used to wipe out generations.



PUBLISHED ON Mar 30,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 987]



Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at tsion.f.terefe@gmail.com.






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