Weekly Column: Technically Speaking, Innovation Mostly Serves us Well

Advisors Aim for Tech Innovation. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Per your orders, your alarm clock blares at 7 a.m. You hit the snooze button to sneak in some extra rest, a decision which becomes a catalyst for early-morning chaos when you doze past your next alarm and must prepare hurriedly before class or work begins. You press your electric toothbrush against each of your pearly whites, but somehow the bristles’ rotations fail to remove that especially stubborn particle of food wedged in between your two front knockers, just in time for an important photoshoot. “Disruptive innovation,” a phrase which Harvard University business professor Clay Christensen coined, casts light on the fact that certain technological advancements may have some unintended side effects (and under more severe circumstances than those I’ve described above, the consequences can be particularly dire). Despite such downsides, however, technological innovation still benefits us more than it harms us.

Generally speaking, technological innovation improves our daily quality of life. The idea that having a wealth of options may lead to subpar decisionmaking doesn’t apply to this realm; if anything, such free will provides tremendous advantages within an environment that might otherwise struggle to preserve precious historical and artistic works. For example, if I sought some ancient or difficult-to-find literature, film, video game or musical album, then I could pick up either a physical copy for the sake of novelty and eternal usability, or perhaps a more accessible but also less permanent digital version with virtually identical content (in fact, I like to collect physical copies of all my Daily Campus articles, knowing that my online archive won’t last forever).

On the other hand, the young generation’s intensifying need for instant gratification, coupled with the ability to do things at the touch of a button, may lessen society’s appreciation of dying, yet still effective informational mediums (e.g. physical encyclopedias, printed newspapers, public libraries, etc.). As long as we maintain those mediums with a meaningful modern purpose, choice will serve us all quite well.

Staying on the subject of instant gratification, our increasing reliance on technological innovation is both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, technology allows for greater efficiency. I mean, imagine a queen from Flushing, Queens doing her business in the morning, getting a royal flush (with all queens, of course) on her online poker app, and becoming flush with excitement while also reading a newspaper article about a local man flush with cash on account of winning last night’s Powerball jackpot, all before taking a (wait for it…) royal flush! Isn’t technology (and my word play) just the best?

Of course, technological overconsumption also can backfire tremendously. Instances during which technology doesn’t work properly (e.g. early morning printer problems leaving you without a paper to hand in to your professor, the map on my mom’s GPS refusing to appear on screen when she enters an unfamiliar destination, etc.) prove rather troublesome, and leaks of sensitive information and explicit content present legitimate dangers. Internet accessibility particularly eases the dissemination of disinformation and opens the door for poor news sources to litter the platform. Furthermore, exorbitant financial gain allows large corporations to turn a blind eye to their products’ greatest faults, and consumers who spend countless hours perusing their devices may lose sight of the world around them. Fortunately, we can use common sense and adaptability to work around technological pitfalls; after all, our intelligence isn’t artificial.

Ultimately, technological innovation should excite us, not instill fear among us (i.e. we should be itching to jump into the screen instead of hiding behind one). It’s okay to acknowledge technology’s imperfections when warranted, but perhaps we should also use such technology more constructively instead of pinning all the blame onto mostly helpful devices.


Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email michael.katz@uconn.edu.