Modern Technology: The Gift and The Curse

By Deric Muhammad -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Mar 17, 2011 - 12:03:58 AM

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( - Every rose has its thorn. The same instrument used to make incisions necessary for surgery can also be used to stab someone to death. While the instrument is neutral, the way it is utilized determines whether it facilitates life or death. So it is with modern technology.

The purpose of technology should be reserved for the advancement of civilization. Technology should help us accomplish life's tasks faster; with less error and greater accuracy. In most cases it serves its purpose. For instance, when researching a cure for a disease like cancer the internet is a great tool. However, this same tool makes pornographic material more available than ever. At the end of the day, the technology will help you do what you want to do. Question is: What are you doing?

Some may answer the above question with a resounding “nothing.” I contend that modern technology can even aid you in the accomplishment of “doing nothing.” If you wake up with the intention of finding a job or studying for an exam, but instead spend hours on end playing your WII game or perusing the web you may very well have enlisted the use of modern technology to help you accomplish “nothing” that day.

My 12-year-old daughter is profoundly gifted at spelling. She won a Nation of Islam local spelling bee. Yet when she sends me text messages, she purposely misspells words; the culture of texting among teens. I admit, texting can be a fast and efficient way to communicate. I use it quite often myself. However, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad so wisely taught us that “too much of anything is no good.” He also taught us that writing was one of the “lost arts” of our people.

Too much texting forces the brain to compute information in an abbreviated form. It affects the way we write, think and speak. Now we have what society calls “sexting”, where sexually charged text messages and photos are exchanged via text message. It seems that our youth are overlooking the rose of technology and are becoming too anxious to toy with its thorns.

The Gift

There are billions of cellular phones activated around the world. I have been as far as China without losing the capability of communicating with my family thanks to technology. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are great places to find classmates, distant relatives and organize events. As seen recently, these sites have the potential to play a major role in revolutionary mobilization.

Were it not for camera-equipped smart-phones we may have never captured the footage of Oscar Grant's murder by an Oakland officer. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, used the internet to leak top-secret cables exposing bizarre communication between sovereign nations. Let's face it, were it not for the brilliant use of cutting-edge modern technology during his 2008 campaign we may not have elected the first Black president of the United States of America. Modern technology is definitely “the gift.”

The Curse

The same smart-phone that we use to communicate has what is termed “memory.” In it we store everything from telephone numbers, meeting notes, appointments, etc. But, when we have become too dependent on our phone's memory, what happens to our own?

The same social networking sites that helped organize protests are also havens for sexual predators and rapists. The same camera-phone that captured Oscar Grant's murder is being used to video-record teen-aged girls fighting and tearing one another's clothes off in the process; also to leak sex tapes and private photos of unsuspecting persons.

The same internet that Wikileaks used to expose government secrets is being used to steal the identities of millions of people, robbing them of their earnings. People seldom converse at the gym anymore. Why? Everyone wears iPod earbuds. The same YouTube phenomenon that gave Barack Obama a direct platform to communicate with voters is being used to air gang initiations and lewd, lascivious activity. You get the picture. Modern technology is what you make it. It can be the gift or the curse, depending on how you make use of it.

We must begin to use technology as a vehicle or it will become a vice. It must be used as a vehicle to facilitate and actualize ideas and concepts. We must use it as a platform to educate, inform, organize and mobilize the masses of our people. The technology itself is neither positive nor negative; it is neutral. However it can be employed for positive or negative purposes, depending on who is using it. The way you use technology is an extension of who you are and how you think. Therefore, self-improvement leads to a more productive use of technology.

Don't spend so much time on FACEBOOK that you neglect to put your FACE in a BOOK. There is no technology like the human mind. It's a lot smarter than a smart phone. Invest in your mind. The returns are limitless. Stop totally depending on gadgets to do your thinking for you. Don't allow yourself to lose sight of the importance of the human bond. Stop texting your grandmother. Get up, go over and visit her. Don't let technology make you lazy.

In the Nation of Islam we are given the lesson of the “Lion in a Cage.” The Lion is to use Modern Equipment to help him get out of this cage. I contend that the same modern equipment that can be used to get the Lion out of this cage can be used to keep him in it. You are the Lion. How will you use today's modern technology? It is a question that must be answered in the mirror.

(Deric Muhammad is a Houston-based community activist. He blogs at