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Laurence Gonzales won the 2001 and 2002 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors for National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Since 1970, his essays have appeared in such[…]

With technology, our gain in efficiency is another person’s loss in toxicity says Laurence Gonzales.

Laurence Gonzales:

in terms of bringing technologies into our lives and recognizing the effects they have, every technology is a double-edged sword.  One of the things that I talked about in the book is that we pay for the technologies in hidden costs that are usually not brought to our attention.  For example, everybody loves the new electronic gadgets that we have, the cell phones, the BlackBerries, the iPods, all these good things that make life fun and more efficient, again, efficiency being the key.  And it seems like it’s free, I mean, they’re cheap, they’re plentiful, everybody’s got one, you use it.  When you’re done with it, you throw it away and they give you a new one and, you know, everybody’s happy.  Except what we don’t see is the real cost of those things.  Those things go to a toxic waste dump in Ghana where children burn the insulation off of them so they could scavenge the metal and get poisoned by things like mercury and iridium.  And, you know, so there’s a whole other part to this technology that we never see.  We’re sold these technologies through marketing that tells us how cool they are, that’s how the competitive system works, but I think there’s a place in this world for kids to be taught, even in school to be taught like, “Here’s a technology and it’s really cool.  But here’s what’s going to cost you, you know, in creating it.  It’s going to cost all these and pollution.  And in getting rid of it, it’s going to cost all these and hurting other people.”  And we got to think what we’re, you know, what we’re really doing here.  There’s another level to this discussion which is, what does using all these technology do to our brains?  There’s a growing body of science that’s being developed on the way that scholars do research now that all the research is online.  And what they’re finding is that instead of going deeply into the source material the way scholars used to do, reading deeply into papers, reading back through a lot of old papers, they tend to skim horizontally through the abstracts of papers and they read stuff that’s much newer.  They don’t go back as far in time and they don’t read much, very deeply, into each article, they just sort of skim across the surface of it.  So that in a sense, we have to question how is this technology influencing our scholarship and our ways of thinking?  And what will this do to the future of scholarship?  So there are all these unintended consequences that we really don’t know about yet that I think we need to start asking questions about.