Kianna Marquez: Technology should be our salvation, not our downfall

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - 2:20pm

Today, technological failures often drive conversations about how inconvenient and counterproductive technology can be. As evidenced by the app used to carry out the data collection during the Iowa caucus earlier this month, technology can be complex and problematic. Additionally, the overwhelming difficulty of utilizing start-up technology on a national scale has become apparent, and we have to realize that digitized products must be improved by developers for years in order to ensure widespread success among consumers.

Major issues can be averted when we embed preventative technology into our infrastructure. The proven effectiveness of applying computerized numerical models to predict weather patterns, including damaging storms, outweighs the inconvenience of the lack of public access to this type of technology. That said, we have not discovered the potential benefits of enacting automated infrastructural processes — such as building rehabilitation or land restoration — in immediate response to climate disasters. Processes that use algorithms to direct unmanned, automatic equipment could be adapted by technology to limit human interaction and facilitate faster reactions to large scale issues. Though difficulties exist, automated infrastructural recovery efforts and their ability to help society recover from destructive natural disasters are promising, just as engineered remedies in medicine serve as promising solutions to health issues today. 

Technological advancements have assisted society in carrying out solutions to physical problems in the natural world. But these advancements have essentially been isolated solutions and I wonder if expanding the functionality and accessibility of technology could allow society to increase its reliance. Could current efforts to develop smart stormwater systems in Ann Arbor have been used to prevent or mitigate the contamination of the Detroit River with uranium and other harmful chemicals? In other words, could reducing the impact of these mistakes imposed on the environment be instigated with digitized infrastructural solutions? In this regard, the advancement of technology could serve society in more conducive, far-reaching ways.

More importantly, this technology could better equip us to address major climate issues. Since the University of Michigan is a public research institution, it’s our responsibility to commit to innovation to facilitate how college campuses address climate issues with technology. Leaders on campus should understand the importance of investing in the future of the entire campus and work to prioritize these efforts above other points of interest, like the apparent aversion to making substantial transitions toward a carbon-neutral campus. 

As community members with the potential to influence administrative decisions, we should push for legislature that will not hinder a society distressed by climate change. Instead, these developments in citywide, regional and national policy should become tailored for an inclusive environment where not everyone is required to be educated thoroughly and where everyone can benefit from the intellectual and physical access to technology. In doing so, a community like Ann Arbor could see widespread benefits from research-developed technology, and as these solutions ultimately become implementable for society, they could be used to address climate issues. 

Society should strive to create more automated climate solutions that can be executed through technology due to the opportunities technological progress can provide. From separating cafeteria waste to restoring a coastal wetland affected by a hurricane, technology could enable society to achieve more in both trivial and monumental tasks. Transforming our mindset to one of speculation about how we utilize existing technology and act on hypothetical advancements is essential for progress.

It’s reasonable to wonder if human intervention is the answer society is looking for, one that could ultimately restore all humans have laid waste to. Should we, as the carriers of modern civilization, instead remove ourselves from the natural world as a way to prevent further burden going forward? With this question in mind, the driving force behind a sustainable future should be the belief that we are capable of involving ourselves positively in the healing process of the planet. Every day, the commitment to creating positive human intervention in the natural world contributes to its revival. Challenging ourselves to commit to technological solutions that propagate a positive way in which we respond to and remedy the climate disasters we will inevitably face is the first step in making our multifarious natural world a better place. 

Kianna Marquez can be reached at kmarquez@umich.edu.