The Blessings and Evils of Technology

Are we better off with technology?

My cohorts of teachers, and our gadgets, as we discuss education in Indonesia.


Is his journey through this life any less valuable or bring any less joy because he does not have technology (man from Papua, one of the least developed provinces of Indonesia)?

Imagine a remote village in a small part of a foreign country. The people are deeply rooted in their culture and traditions. They do not have any of the luxuries of modern society, nor do they know of them. They live in simple huts and cook in clay pots over an open fire. They hunt, grow, and barter for everything they need. Do you think these people would be just as happy as everyone else in the world?

What if one of the young adults from the remote village travels to a larger city. They see machinery creating products at a rapid rate. They see a tv broadcasting the national news for the first time. They also interact with a person who has a smartphone. Because of these simple exposures, that individual will not return to the village as the same person who left. They will never look at their day-to-day living the same.

Events such as these are occurring all around the world and I am learning first hand how technology influences the Indonesian culture and way of life. Because of technology, their society is not as it was 20 yrs ago. Indonesians are noticing that many of their most sacred and historical traditions are being diluted. Some Indonesians are expressing fear because young adults are heading to cities such as Jakarta and have no interest in returning to their small villages. The foundations of much of their unique culture remains in the hands of their elders who are dying. As a result, their traditions are changing or may not exist 20 or more years from now.

Many of the school systems in Jakarta still have the values that most American teachers dream of. Here, students and parents show teachers the upmost respect. Teachers are addressed as bapak or ubi, the equalivent of sir and madam. Each morning, students greet their teacher with a kiss on the hand and the student then places the teacher’s hand to their forehead to adorn them with reverence. Students do not misbehave in class. They do not interrupt the teacher while he or she is talking. It is an insult to correct the teacher if a mistake is made. But, as students are gaining more access to technology, even the school traditions are slowing fading. One of the principals of a Muslim school here in Jakarta has had students ask if they can be like Lady Gaga when they grow up.

Many see influences such as these as the evils of technology, mostly originating from Western Civilizations. On the other hand, they also recognize that it is good for communities to have a tool that allows them to have a two-way conversation with the rest of the world. Access to technology has allowed Americans to learn more about Indonesia other than the fact that President Obama lived there. It allows Indonesians to know there is more to America than Hollywood and wars. But we have to ask, at what point does the influence of technology overshadow what’s really important in life: family, friends, traditions, quality time, and personal growth? At what point is technology such a necessity that any village without is still considered to be living in the dark ages? And then you have to ask yourself, is technology really needed? If your answer is no, I challenge you to go 24 hours without using it and let me know how it goes. πŸ™‚

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2 thoughts on “The Blessings and Evils of Technology

  1. It’s interesting that I read your blog this morning as I’m feeling frustrated that in less than an hour (according to my computer) my battery will be dead. I was feeling frustrated that I cannot find a converter to plug my computer into – the 220 here in Brazil in not compatible with my plug. I asked the man at the front desk for a converter and he gave me one that still doesn’t match my computer cord. So, in about an hour, I’m going to find out what it’s like to go more than 24hrs without technology! Hmmm… kind of scary. But I know what you mean about students worldwide being changed by such simple things as access to the internet. It will be hard for parents to maintain tradition and that’s a sad thing.

    • Yes. This technology addiction is just as serious as a coffee or nicotine addition…we have to have it. πŸ™‚ In the event you are unable to find an adaptor, I am sure the first few days will be tough but afterwards you will feel a greater sense of inner peace and more in tune with the world.

      It is interesting, some Indonesian teachers are saying that it is becoming more difficult to plan lessons because in some instances the students have more access to technology than the teachers. This forces the role of “one who knows it all” in the classroom from teacher to students. Typically this would be a good thing but it can be difficult to save face when the students are aware that the teacher clearly is not well versed in the topic.

      I wish you luck with the adapter and let me know how you are able to cope with the technology deprivation.

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