Not many things have changed society as much as steam engines, electricity, the printing press, and digital technology. These 4 inventions have been so life changing that they have their own classification.
The term General Purpose Technology (GPT) is a product or technological advancement that transforms household and business or economic life. It is something which is impossible to remove once it is invented. The technology or product must receive the GPT classification from a set of economists who study how an economy is changed by this invention. It is measured by how pervasive it is into all sectors, whether it is innovation-spawning, and how the product itself improves over time.
After studying GPT, it’s easy to see that these 4 technologies have greatly changed society. However, there was one interesting finding: during both the electricity and digital technology eras, productivity growth was lower than in the periods leading up to them. I personally find that interesting because it seems to me that both electricity and digital technology have something in common, and that is the fact that they brought comfort to daily life after being introduced. To build on that, electricity initially brought more comfort to the daily lifestyle than digital technology did and, because of that, electrification spread faster than digital technology.
On a smaller scale, it seems very similar to what one’s life looks like. One example of this is seen in our predecessors. They worked hard to prepare a better lifestyle for their descendants. Unfortunately, instead of receiving that inheritance, running with it and handing off something even better to the next generation, many of the next generation took that inheritance and used it as an opportunity to slack off and degrade the values that those before them worked hard to uphold. The innovators did not inherit the “comfortable lifestyle” as we did.
Many of us go through an extended stage in life where we work hard to develop a state of comfort, in our ministries, finances, or personal lives. When we reach that comfort stage, instead of adjusting our goals and continuing the push, we get too complacent and start to neglect the values we stood for before – because we have reached that “comfortable” stage.
Although we all strive to find comfort, it is something that should be avoided, because it is when we are uncomfortable that we are the most useful to our ministries, families, and country. I think it goes back to our value system. If we value only ourselves and our life, then it is easy to become self-centered. We make enough money, find a spouse, get involved in a few charitable events, and life is great. Nothing else is needed. But if we set our eyes on the needs in the world around us, it is a lot easier to step out of our comfort zone into the uncomfortable.
There are so many ways our search for comfort results in a misuse of technology. For example,
With the ease of shopping online, family debts are skyrocketing and online fraud is increasing. Kids are using this technology without any real training or filters, people are becoming anti-social as they grow more connected to their social media.
So, with more technological changes coming, whether we like it or not, we have an opportunity. The question is, do we just use it as a convenient way for us to do our shopping and keep our kids occupied, or do we take this technology and become uncomfortable by reining in how we use it and setting wise boundaries in what we use it for and how much time we devote to it?