A small petri dish heading for waste disposal yielded humanity the key to fighting diseases that once meant certain death. The discovery of penicillin changed the face of medicine forever. Decades later, the internet opened the world to an interconnected interface, allowing knowledge and human interaction to converge on a global scale. From the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution to the invention of the printing press and the atomic bomb, technological advancements have propelled our societies towards unrelenting progress and ever-increasing complexity. Each step of ingenuity erases the path that leads to the past. We may never return to the way life proceeded before technology.
Though dreams of levitating cars may only live on in the pages of futurist books, what modern technology offers us is far more remarkable. Technology has the power to amplify human ability, bringing into reality what was once seen as impossible. However, with the greater intricacy it imparts on our lives, a host of unforeseen challenges emerge. Technology equally possesses the capability to expose human weakness.
This edition’s writers grapple with the positive and negative implications of technology in the modern age. Their essays explore the ways recent advancements mark the fields of politics, entertainment, and media. Will these innovations devastate things like the economy and the environment? Or will they rejuvenate them?
Natalie Shutts considers how artificial intelligence is reshaping the political economy of the Middle East. Using the United Kingdom and the United States as case studies, Audrey Li demonstrates how self-driving automobiles could reduce carbon emission if they populate streets in the near future.
Christopher Torres argues that Blockchain technology can benefit sustainable development in the food and energy sectors by encouraging transparency amongst corporations and other key players in the economy.
In her podcast, Jenny Yae speaks to locals and experts to investigate why New York has more litter than other cities in the world. Interviewing NYU professor and Anthropologist in Residence with the New York City Department of Sanitation Robin Nagle, Yae unearths the deeper psychological and philosophical roots of littering and waste management. Daniela Weinstein explores the challenges of managing a more toxic waste. Charting the historical development of nuclear power in France and the United States, she rigorously evaluates government policy in its approach to nuclear waste disposal.
Trevor Sorensen draws on communications theorist Marshall McLuhan’s work to show that whilst modern technology has opened the doors for greater political participation, it can also fuel stronger and deeper political divisions. Maria Puertas echoes this sentiment, outlining how digital forms of media more effectively connect candidates to voters. The cost of this is not just limited to voters, though. Puertas highlights that digital media elements such as memes, live streams, and Twitter have also become platforms where women candidates experience harassment.
Drawing from a number of popular films and TV series, Editor Lena Reilly shows how the dystopian narratives in “Her,” “Black Mirror,” and “Sight” engage our anxieties about modern technology and urge us to reflect on ourselves. Dora Wu reveals the potential instability of a platform where many of these productions are made available to us. She underlines the parallel between the dotcom speculative bubble and Netflix, showing that the streaming platform exhibits the qualities that caused the dotcom bubble to erupt.
Humanity has been marked by major technological advancements. Technology presents us with opportunity, but we decide what to do with the power it yields. The writers of this edition’s Review acknowledge this phenomenon, bringing greater clarity to what modern technology says about us in the present, and where it can take our future.