Technology is great – until its imprint hits home

Technology is great – until its imprint hits home


THE world is in a very puzzling place.

My friend Alan sent me a video of a 3D printer printing a home in two days at a cost of $2 500 (about R35 000) with only three people “printing” it.

I confess, it scared me so badly I could only watch halfway through and can’t look again.

How wonderful – lost-cost homes for everyone. Apartment blocks, malls, offices, hotels, all done with these marvellous machines at unbelievably low prices.

They are also beautiful: because the printer is so clever and flexible, designs can be circular or zig-zagged or oval or diamond-shaped. Anything really.

What a boon.

Many use waste, such as rice husks and other natural things we don’t want, as the bulk of their material, so we’ll also save the environment.

The technology is astonishing.

But what about humans?

What will they do? Who will buy these homes, offices, hotels? If only three people are needed to build a house and, say, 10 workers to put up a high-rise, who will have income?

Who will be able to shop at these malls? Or take off for a weekend at the lovely new hotel?

Technology is fantastic and there’s no space for Luddites, now or in the future.

Imagine how much worse Covid would have been if we weren’t at the current stage of development in this field. If it had come along in the Boomer or Gen X generations, it would have been catastrophic, Black Death-like in its numbers and impact. No cellphones, no Zooms, no satellite TV, no wi-fi. No one would have been able to work from home, no business would be done and no one would have money to feed themselves.

There would be no economy.

Medical knowledge, challenged though it was by Covid, would have been even slower to understand and react.

The internet allowed collaboration by scientists across the world to identify the virus, start to understand it and develop a vaccine in the fastest time in scientific history.

The argument here is not about moving forward; it’s about the unintended consequences of humans’ brilliance and tackling these at the same time as we look on in wonderment at how clever we are. We need skilled people to find solutions.

As the Boomer parent of a Millennial, I despair. What will any of their skills be worth, and how many people across the world will find work, of any sort, as technology expands so fast in our daily lives?

What self-perception will they have when their parents have worked to provide for them but they are unable to do so because there is either no work or no one left to buy their services?

On a rare sortie into a shop, another Millennial and I got talking about property and the impossibility of him ever owning his own home. Leaving home to rent is too expensive, even though he has a job.

How will the world economy adapt to avoid a future of millions of low-cost homes sitting empty as billions of work-less people stare in the windows?

The world is going to be very different, and we need to put our brilliant minds together to make a plan that will work for everyone.

  • Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor

The Independent on Saturday

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