Technology Has Failed to Increase Happiness

Dr. Huesemann’s talk on Techno-fixes and why technology won’t save us reaffirmed that our world has gone in the wrong direction with a great idea. On the one hand, technological advances have brought with it medicines to cure diseases and infections that otherwise commonly killed people in the past on a daily basis. However, Dr. Huesemann points out a fact that really hit home:

Technology has failed to increase happiness

– (21:25)

Due to the rise of technology, specifically entertainment technology, we as beings have lost touch with traditional sources of happiness. Traditional sources of happiness used to be social interaction between family and friends, satisfaction at work, and closeness to nature. No matter how many cool toys we have such as high-tech smartphones and gaming PCs, these things cannot replace physically interacting with our world and our fellow beings. We are social beings with a driving psychological need to belong, to love and feel loved. We are natural beings who once explored the earth openly under the bright skies and dark starry nights. After closing ourselves off in our homes to be on the computer and internet, it is no wonder we are increasingly lonely and unhappy. Even if we can interact with people all over the world via the internet, we still need and desire to be physically close to each other and no technology can replace that.

Happiness is what everyone strives for in life no matter the age, sex, religion, class status, and location. Without happiness, what is the point of continuously buying into new tech toys? Thus, technology and material affluence is not a sustainable source of happiness, no matter what anyone tells you (money is everything). Instead, we need to look back to our roots as beings to realize we can obtain happiness the same way they did back then: interacting with one another, dedicating time to each other without the distraction of tech, and get away from concrete and buildings to bring the peaceful nature back into human beings to which we are still a part of.

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Linear vs Systems Thinking: Experience Inside and Outside of a Formal Classroom

As a student of Geography, specifically physical geography, I find that we are taught in a very linear fashion; meaning we break up the earth systems into portions and individual parts and study it as such. Topics such as plate tectonics and climate are seen as completely separate parts, and the human factor and effects on each places humans as completely isolated entities rather than as part of the earth.

In general, we start the beginning of each geography course by looking at some big picture concepts such as plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanoes, climate, and storms. However, these earth systems are taught as being separate from each other rather than interconnected. Although we are learning these highly intricate and detailed systems, we are not learning to connect them as a whole. The climate is a separate entity from the surface rather, and humans are treated like aliens; a completely separate concept from the earth and systems that at the same time have a profound effect. Later in the course, we focus more on highly detailed pieces and leave connecting it all back together to the very last minute of the quarter, or in some cases, not at all. Since classes often skip past the subjects of climate change and human interaction and effects on these systems at the end, we are left with a linear trail rather than a clean return to the beginning.

I found that I have developed systems thinking indirectly by maintaining an interdisciplinary experience in my college career, such as taking courses on a variety of topics ranging from the arts to the hard sciences. Having a taste of each allows us to connect the dots from one discipline to the other, thus connecting these systems into one larger. I had also learned systems thinking through a hobby I have a passion for in a real world application. Aviation requires basic knowledge in a wide variety of topics such as human factors, mechanics, mathematics, physics, aerodynamics, geography, and navigation. Being able to understand and connect these concepts into one bigger system creates a very safe flight environment.

I believe colleges should try to encourage students to be interdisciplinary to begin exposing them to systems thinking rather than emphasizing specialty and exclusivity to one field. Not only does this enrich the students with more knowledge and experience, but also allows everyone the ability to view a problem from many angles in order to achieve the best possible solution. Real world applications depend on being able to view the issue from multiple angles because we live in a natural and dynamic world.