Bookster: Technology and the Meaning of Progress

bookster_logoTechnology and the meaning of progress is another theme that I found in The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, which may resonate with some readers.  Consider the following quote by the author upon his arrival in the United States:

“One of the things I noticed in New York is that people don’t have time for anything, not even to sit down for coffee – instead, they drink it from paper cups while they walk and send e-mails. Standing at a construction site, I watched giant cranes lift enormous pieces of steel into the sky, and it made me wonder how Americans could build these skyscrapers in a year, but in four decades of independence, Malawi can’t even pipe clean water to a village…We always seem to be struggling to catch up. Even with so many smart and hardworking people, we’re still living and dying like our ancestors.”

From this statement William seems to express a level of envy at the material progress he observes on his first visit to the U.S. and consequently seems to be embarrassed by the lack of technological advancement in his own country.  From reading the book what do you think Malawi has that the U.S. is lacking?

To me, it is quite evident in the first sentence of the above quote. We may be technologically advanced in the United States, but we don’t have time for our personal relationships. In the book I was impressed by the strong ties that the author has to his family, friends and fellow villagers. Given what is presented in the book we can infer that although Malawians lack in technological advancement, they are wealthy in terms of the quality of their personal relationships.

I would agree with the author that it would be a good thing for developing countries to have access to technology that will make their physical lives better, especially if it is done in a way that is environmentally sustainable.  However, hopefully this advancement will not come at the expense of devaluing the quality of their strong personal relationships that they seem to have in their culture. Also we in the West can learn from them. Technology is only one measure of progress.

– Eric Stanton, Librarian at CADL Okemos

If our online discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Windinterests you and you’d like to share more in person, please join us at 12 p.m., April 4 for alively discussion at CADL Okemos.

One response to “Bookster: Technology and the Meaning of Progress

  1. I agree. We have no time to make personal relationship, because everyone manipulate his own technically advanced products, such as smart phone, iPad, laptop computer, or TV. Advanced technique provide us plenty of time, why don’t we still have time to talk with his family or friends? It’s irony.

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