HAS TECHNOLOGY DELIVERED ON ITS PROMISE OF HUMAN BETTERMENT? PRESENTED TO DR. KRISTEN DOMIKE BY IMAOBONG UMOESSIEN 114279 ON 20 NOVEMBER 2012 UPEI ABSTRACT The purpose of this research was to understand and answer the question “Has Technology Delivered On Its Promise Of Human Betterment? ”. To do so, we searched for the effects of medical technology on humans, using articles from the textbook and internet, the summary of lectures undergone over the semester and personal experience.
Using ideas from the article “The Blow Back Of Duality”, I agreed that as medical technology became progressively fruitful, we encounter even more harmful diseases, although I disagreed with the author that this is basis for refuting the total effect of technology on health. From the article “The Post Modern: A Transparent Society”, the author says that the mass media has caused more confusion, however the media has also made it possible for the public to be aware of medical services.
Innovations such as robotics and improved communication systems in medical technology have lessened the work load of professionals, allowed patients to be more involved in their health due to portable devices like diabetic regulation lenses and information, and increased longevity. Through showing various benefits of medical technology like to human betterment, it was concluded that technology has indeed delivered on its promise of human betterment.
Technology is moving at a whirlwind pace, growing exponentially, almost alarmingly, and as we get over our awe of the breakthroughs in technology, we begin to see the disadvantages, like the constantly improving weapon of mass destruction. In our alarm, we have taken a step back and posed the question to ourselves “Has Technology Delivered On Its Promise Of Human Betterment? ”. The fact that we need to ask this question means that we are doubting the continued significance of technology to our daily lives.
To answer this question, we must first understand what technology is. There are many definitions we can use, but for the purpose of this paper, I will define technology as the modification of the natural environment in order to satisfy perceived human need and wants via the use of tools and the application of science. There are many applications of technology and the fact that it is so broad a topic forces us to chose one system where technology has been applied to answer this question clearly.
From my point of view, the health sector is a perfect example. Medical technology is designed to improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of disease and illness and has been around since the cave man began using rocks as tools to perform trephening, a process where a hole is made in the body cavity in order to remove particles or release pressure, such as in the skull. Health care is the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of physical and mental impairments in humans.
In the 1990’s, the annual mortality rate was one in forty two Americans, and the life expectancy was fifty years. Today, the average person has a life expectancy of seventy seven years with an annual mortality rate of one in a hundred and twenty five people (National Bureau of Economic Research). Because of advances in the quality of health care, a quality made possible because of medical technology, we can live longer and healthier. Being crippled no longer limits the variety of activities that you can indulge in.
In terms of the health care industry, Technology has delivered on its promise of human betterment, because the health care industry is driven by advances in technology, such as the synthesis of drugs like penicillin which was the first drug that was effective against many serious diseases such as syphilis, improvement in machinery like the Magnetic Resonance Imaging which allows us to view internal structures of the body in detail and health care has improved human life and longevity. Medical technology has allowed for the control and cure of many diseases initially thought to be impossible to cure.
Many of us have heard of the black death, also known as the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague is an infectious disease that is transmitted from small rodents and their fleas to human and kills two thirds of infected humans within four days. In the sixth century, the first recorded epidemic of the bubonic plague killed approximately twenty five million people in the roman empire only. In the fourteenth century, the black death struck again, killing 30% – 60% of the European population and a third of humanity (THE MIDDLE AGES. NET ).
In the pre-antibiotic era, that is, before there was any medication (1900-1941), the mortality rate of those infected with the plague was 66%. Today in the United States, it has decreased to 11% (Plague in the United States). This is an instance where the effect of medical technology is profoundly shown. Today, with the proper treatment we see the bubonic plague as an inconvenience as opposed to the death sentence it was merely sixty years ago. However, as medical technology has made us more proficient in handling diseases, more dangerous diseases have sprung up for us to face.
With the advancement in health came the advancement in the nature of illnesses faced daily, like cancer. This can be related to Jean Baudrillard’s point of view in the article “The Blow Back Of Duality” (Baudrillard, 2012). He believed that the blow back of duality is the way the world works already, an inevitable reconstruction of the world by nature that occurs as a reaction to our attempts to perfect the world we live in, in this case, curing ourselves of the black death. He goes on to use various examples to explain this, such as the paradox between life and death.
In our attempt to perfect ourselves, we reject the fact that death is not the evil opposite of life, but instead an alternate form of existence, much like how winter is not the opposite of spring, but instead an alternative weather condition. He pointed out that we are subject to gift and counter effect- a concept not too far from the scientific statement “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. For example, the counter effect of terrorism against the gift of a government.
I believe that this theory of the blow back of duality, with regards to medical science is exceptional. If we take past experiences like the plague as an example, we can infer that as technology increases in complexity, it will provide answers to questions we don’t have yet, much like how we have answers to the plague now but no answers to a disease like Epidermolysis Bullosa, a genetic connective tissue disease (Staff, 2011), and as it provides these answers, technology will make more questions in the process. This is a fine example of the blow back of duality.
The mass media plays a great role in the conduction of medical activities. Due to the way information is shared indiscriminately on social networks patients have become a part of the diagnostic process. People now actively look up their symptoms in order to have an idea about what is wrong with them. Such self-serve elements could serve as helpful or detrimental. It would be helpful in the sense that the patient can have an in depth knowledge of what is wrong with them and have access to a wide range of knowledge that doctors do not always have.
However, it could be detrimental should a patient come across the wrong information due to the wealth of information available. The variety of opinions available to us could also cause confusion, a situation well explained in Gianni Vattimo’s article, “The Post Modern: A Transparent Society” (Vattimo, 2012). Because the media, a sector of technology, is supposed to shed light on information, the counter effect it has of confusing does not deliver on technology’s promise of human betterment.
He explains that the mass media, instead of making for a “transparent” society as it promised, exposes the voices of the minorities which will instead complicate the society with its differing viewpoints. Because of so many views being known, one can no longer have a single perception of reality, forcing people to adopt the intersections of so many different viewpoints made aware to us by the mass media. This would cause a more confusing reality as opposed to the “transparency” that the media promised.
This is true when it comes to looking for information on medical conditions, as it often leads to confusion and differing opinions. However, I have found from personal experiences that human beings need to understand the things that affect them. If we want to only speak theoretically, then it would be beneficial if people didn’t search beyond what medical practitioners tell them but that is never the case. The media forces medical practitioners to be careful about their practice of medicine through its scrutiny of their activities and practices, which results in a high quality of healthcare.
Since hospitals and firms want to succeed, they need to have outstanding credentials and standards. The media broadcasts these standards which results in the double effect of making organizations responsible and enhancing medical ethics. Wikis, networks and other sharing tools have given patients access to basic information which allows them manage their own health, limiting hospital trips and saving lives in some cases, for instance, in the publicizing of practices such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid. nd first aid. Also, the media makes the world and general public aware of advances that may be of benefit to them much sooner than word of mouth. The media also provides an endless database for information, and allows people from different parts of the world to also share personal experiences of treatments they received in their countries which can help others in places where such practices are not as common. The media creates awareness and allows people to get active in good causes.
A good example can be seen in MTV’s collaboration with foursquare, where users of foursquare, a social network, are entered to win a trip for two to New York city and backstage passes to shows on MTV when they get themselves tested for STD,s, a campaign that sought to “help young people become more aware of how common STDs are — according to MTV, one in two people will contract an STD by age 25. ” (Johnson, 2010) When faced with these benefits, confusion stirred by the media, which can be cleared up by a trip to a nearby pharmacy, becomes an insignificant downside.
Medical technology has gone beyond the media and plagues. There are many medical technology advancements underway, some already ongoing, robotic surgery for instance. Robotic surgery is the use of robots made in order to perform an array of surgical procedures in a minimally invasive manner. This is known as minimally invasive surgery, an advancement in health care which allows the surgeon to avoid full exposure of the structures and organs involved in a surgical procedure.
This technological advancement has eliminated the most physically and emotionally traumatic elements: the pain and lengthy recovery from “open” surgery. It has resulted in shorter hospital stays which saves money, less pain which increases comfort and quicker recoveries which promotes efficiency. Medical robots limit blood loss and are more precise. They offer doctors a clear magnified view that doctors could not get before, because their hands where in the way. Another kind of medical robot aids in dispensing prescriptions. edication errors harm 1. 5 million people each year in the U. S. , kill several thousand and cost the nation’s healthcare system at least $3. 5 billion, according to a July 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine. The prescription dispensing robot eliminates the room for human error while doing the job eight times faster and allowing pharmacists to get more involved with patients (Technology and Medicine). Another innovative technological advancement is the Nanocomposite Contact Lenses for treating diabetes.
This technology embeds nanoparticles into hydro gel lenses, which react with glucose molecules found in tears and cause a chemical reaction that change one’s eye colour. These specially made contact lenses for diabetics would continuously alert them to variations in their glucose levels simply by looking in a mirror. (7 Realy Cool Medical Tech Advancements Underway, 2010). On the iPhone it is already possible for individuals to measure their blood pressure through available apps. My mother used to use a heart rate monitor that alerted her as to when to take her drugs.
Yet another hot topic in medicine is therapeutic cloning, a very controversial topic to say the least. And though it has been banned, its implications could be very useful. Therapeutic cloning aims to create embryonic stem cells that could be used to cure diseases or grow replacement organs. If it were allowed, this new technology could be used in many areas. It could be used with burn victims to regrow damaged skin, in the loss of a limb to regrow limbs and even brain damage where we can regenerate dead brain cells.
An exceptional idea is the remote monitoring of patients from home, made possible by the use of pressure-sensitive mats in a patient’s bed. This technology will allow doctors to remotely monitor sleeping patterns of their patients and detect abnormal situations such as fevers, breathing problems or falls. Data from the sensor mat is transmitted to the hospital securely over the Internet and, if a patient’s movements deviate from the normal pattern, alerts are sent electronically to doctors, 911, or family members.
The mat can be less intrusive and more efficient than a video camera, visiting nurse or caregiver, and may be suitable for seniors who need regular monitoring but are reluctant to enter a nursing home. It may be argued that these technologies will replace one on one personal care that only trained healthcare professionals can deliver, but we can counter argue that not only does this allow medical professional to keep closer tabs on patients, this will also give the elderly a sense of dignity by allowing them to still be self sufficient without leaving them alone.
Another important aspect of medicine where technology has and will come in handy is in the collection, storage and transfer of patient data and details. Communication between patients and doctors can extend beyond face to face meetings, allowing patients to communicate with their doctors through emails and instant messaging. Video chat provides a means for doctors to oversee medical process in dire situations over long distances, such as a situation where medical attention is required in hard to reach areas.
The digitization of healthcare, particularly in patient records, and the automation of back office operations such as filing and filling of data create a foundation for a future that offers more efficient patient care and cost savings and environmental friendly perspectives, by reducing the use of paper. For example, patient records can be accessed at a patient’s bedside via PDA. Pictures of a patient’s injuries can be forwarded by paramedics from an accident site to help emergency hospital personnel assess and prepare for treatment while the patient is enroute to the hospital. Nortel Networks Corperation, 2009) Over the next decade, there will be major impacts of technology in healthcare, some of which are; * Up to date electronically clinic records which will allow staff to keep track of a patients existing drug and allergies to reduce chance of errors. * Equipment tracking which will allow apparatus to be found quickly for use, maintenance, and tracked for loss or theft. * Multiple storage sites and networking will prevent loss of medical records and also made available when required. Community health will be interconnected with hospitals and other healthcare sites such as clinics, doctor offices and home care services to help provide quality patient care outside the bricks and mortar of a hospital. This will allow hospitals to decrease costs by managing resources more effectively. It can be argued that with the advancement in technology, there will be less job openings available due to robots doing the job of humans, or that the quality of patient-doctor relationships will diminish greatly because of gadgets.
The fact is that as with everything in the world, there will be advantages and disadvantages. We have to weigh the pros and cons and decide which factors are more important than others. Medical technology allows us not just to save lives, but to do it efficiently and painlessly, allows us to live longer, giving us more time to spend on earth with our loved ones. It allows us to aid people regardless of where we are via the sharing of knowledge. When pit against quality of relationships, these things are monumental. The possibilities and reaches of Medical technology is merely scratching the surface.
By simplifying time-consuming processes like prescription dispensing and eliminating some of the major causes of medical errors, technology will ensure the right skill level and right cost structure is in place to provide the best care effectively and efficiently. Technology may not solve all of the world’s healthcare system’s ills, but it’s certainly a good place to start. These points help to certify that technology has delivered on its promise of human betterment, and from my point of view, will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Works Cited 7 Realy Cool Medical Tech Advancements Underway. (2010, January 7). Retrieved November 18, 2012, from SherWeb: http://blog. sherweb. com/7-really-cool-medical-tech-advancements-underway/ Baudrillard, J. (2012). The Blow Back of Duality. In R. Srigley, D. Coll, A. Duncan, G. Germain, ; C. Lacroix, Dreams of Perfection: Globalization and its Critics (pp. 40-42). Oxford University Press. Evans, J. T. , De Miranda, M. A. , ; Doggett, M. A. Medical Technology; Context and Content in Science and Technology. Johnson, S. 2010, September 1). How Will Location-based Social Media Affect Healthcare? . Retrieved November 17, 2012, from HCP Live: http://www. hcplive. com/pop-medicine/How-Will-Location-based-Social-Media-Affect-Healthcare Lambdin, S. , Bornstein, L. , Reichwaldt, K. , Garcia, J. , ; Lombard, H. Medical Advancements Due to Technology. National Bureau of Economic Research. (n. d. ). Why Do Death Rates Decline? Retrieved November 18, 2012, from the NATIONAL BUREAU of ECONOMIC RESEARCH: http://www. nber. org/digest/mar02/w8556. tml Nortel Networks Corperation. (2009, January 14). Technology’s Impact on Healthcare. Retrieved November 19, 2012, from Nortel: http://www2. nortel. com/go/news_detail. jsp? cat_id=-10061&oid=100212311&locale=en-us&lcid=-1 Plague in the United States. (n. d. ). Retrieved Novemeber 16, 2012, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www. cdc. gov/plague/maps/index. html Staff, M. C. (2011, September 27). Epidermolysis Bullosa. Retrieved November 19, 2012, from Mayo Clinic: http://www. mayoclinic. om/health/epidermolysis-bullosa/DS01015 Technology and Medicine. (n. d. ). Retrieved November 19, 2012, from 123helpme!. com: www. 123helpme. com/view. asp? id=27669 THE MIDDLE AGES. NET . (n. d. ). Retrieved November 18, 2012, from The Black Death: Bubonic Plague: http://www. themiddleages. net/plague. html Vattimo, G. (2012). The Post Modern: A Transparent Society. In R. Srigley, D. Coll, A. Duncan, G. Germain, & C. Lacroix, Dreams of Perfection:Globalization and its Critics (pp. 43-48). Oxford University Press.
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