The role of technology in human behavior and development
by Lipsitt, Lewis P., Ph.D.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN HUMAN behavior and development over the past several centuries have been technological. Human lives have been revolutionized by advances like the printing press, the automobile, the telephone and the TV. Human biological capacities have not changed significantly for thousands of years, however, but one technological improvement after another has propelled us into a geometric growth function for about 200 years.
While our longevity has increased due to scientific developments ... we have not improved our ability to keep out of trouble or regulate our behavior. In fact, we've become more dangerous. While our mental dispositions and propensity for aggression are much the same now as 12 generations ago, today we have the technology to destroy ourselves and others more easily.
One may argue: "Nobody would say adolescent suicide has increased 300% in 30 years because of technological improvements!" But we've got easy guns and easy drugs, and we're more likely to be isolated in our individual social activities. Isolation was not always as easy as now. Paradoxically, the technology of our era, like TV, encourages isolation and provides vivid lessons in destroying ourselves or others.
If humans can produce all that technology in the aeronautical, biochemical, medical and engineering sciences, why can't we have major advances in the behavioral and developmental sciences that would reduce personal misadventures, sociocultural holocausts and environmentally caused illness? Better understanding of the human mind could help bring an end to addictive behavior, sociopathy, schizophrenia, aggressive disorders, learning disabilities, prematurity (stemming largely from poverty) and poverty, which itself is a social disorder. We're at a critical place in scientific, technological and social development and must devote the same passion and other resources to the behavior sciences as we have invested in other technologies. Major advances must be made now in social psychology, education and child development.
The technology of behavioral self-regulation, the study of empathy and altruism, the application of our best technological wits to the preservation of people and the perpetuation of a livable world are of paramount importance. All technical advances are products of behavior. Now we must simply apply that behavior to behavior itself. All it takes is for people to come up with the energy, motivation, intelligence, cognitive perspicacity, funding and the willingness to take some risks. That's how we got the auto, the …