Technology is progressing at an accelerating pace. In fact, it is evolving so fast that if you’re between the ages of 14 and 18 reading this in 2018, you belong to the last age group to have experienced a no-smartphone childhood. My little sister was born into a world which is different from the one I was born into. Watching videos on a smartphone takes up a lot of her time and influences her childhood.
I believe that in the same way an individual can either let his life just pass by or take responsibility for his life and become the person he wants to be, so can the human race. We can either “go with the flow,” meaning being indifferent to the political, social, cultural, and technological changes that are happening right before our eyes, letting them lead us wherever they will, or humanity can decide what it wants to become. What do we humans want to be? This decision has to be made now.
We, the younger generations, are the ones who will actually get to see further advances in technology. It is we who will eventually create the future. Therefore it is important that we get a good education and turn our creativity and talents towards helping the world and other people. In order to achieve this goal, we need to take more responsibility in the face of growing technological advances. We must learn and stick to values such as unity and caring alongside studying “STEM” subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), be it by improving education, or even establishing a world leadership body responsible for technological advances. Here I will look at the questions that really matter about the future of technology and the human race, and even more importantly, suggestions of what we can change in our education and leadership today to ensure we’re heading in the right direction.
So, how do we make sure that our power ends up in the right hands? It starts with education. I’m a high school student majoring in physics and computer science. I am also an ambassador for an organization called “Lead,” a leadership development program in Israel. Every Lead ambassador initiates and leads a social change project. My Lead project, for example, focuses on teenage employment. I feel that taking part in this leadership program completes something that is lacking in the school system: developing a sense of social responsibility (the obligation to benefit the well-being and the interests of society) in teens. My Lead mentor always tells me that if there is something that bothers me in the world, I can and should take action to change it. If schools integrate teaching social responsibility alongside teaching STEM subjects, students will learn to be aware of how their actions affect their surroundings. This will help to prepare the next generation to advance and research the science and tech fields while making sure technology is directed towards benefiting the world and not harming us.
It is also important to study history, so we can make the best of the lessons and mistakes of the past by learning from them. We can see throughout the years that history does repeat itself. Leaders who have examined their actions by looking back at similar events or trends in history are the ones that have made much better decisions. As the influencers of tomorrow, let’s apply that practice to today. Studying wars, technological advancements, and revolutions across history can teach us how to collaborate towards a positive or negative goal. We need to learn more about history and come up with our own ideas, linking yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Technology brings us power and, as is often said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The X and Y generations (born in 1966-1994) should not give us power solely, but also the tools to use it wisely. Adults already apply this advice in driving, for example. There aren’t a lot of parents who would give their child the keys to their car when he or she still doesn't know how to drive. Yet parents encourage their children to improve in STEM subjects without understanding social responsibility. Here, the older generations give the younger generations a lot of power and knowledge, but without necessarily providing the tools for them to use it wisely. Is this not a contradiction?
Another solution for the struggle of power versus responsible control over it is to create a world leadership specifically devoted to thinking about the ethical implications of technology. Some would say I’m too young and naïve to tell people what to do, but I believe that we have to create a group that will include representatives from all around the globe who care about humanity and the good of the world. This leadership will responsibly plan desired changes via technology and will foresee and prevent dangerous advances in tech. This leadership has to be granted authority which will be based on the values of democracy. Without such an organization, some people can have too much power and a bad situation could become irreversible. When I am older, I would love to be a part of such leadership and even take up the challenge and create a council if there isn’t one.
Although we can try to control humanity’s advancements, we can’t stop evolution. Breaking boundaries is part of what makes us human. When we built the first towns, we broke the boundaries of our caves. When our languages developed, we broke the boundaries of our communication. With the internet and science, we are breaking the boundaries of our information. Now with modern medicine, integrating technology in our bodies, and genetic engineering, we are breaking through our biology. We are changing the rules of the game. And that's okay, as long as we take responsibility and move our world in a direction that is better for us.
Remember, the best way to predict the future is to create it! Let’s not let coincidence determine what will happen. We can take the future into our hands, and it starts now.
Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. New York: Harper, 2015.
Ohad Argavan is a 17-year-old high school student from Pardes-Hanna, Israel. He loves extreme sports and works as a guide at Technoda, a science and technology education center. Ohad is also an ambassador for Lead, a leadership development program. His dream is to be on the first delegation to Mars.
KidSpirit’s teen editors and contributors around the world believe in a better future. Help empower the next generation to raise their voices and move forward in a spirit of openness and inclusion - make a tax-deductible contribution to KidSpirit today.
KidSpirit, Inc is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization