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Does New Technology Always Make Us Better?

While I am no Luddite,[1] I do wonder if sometimes we are so focused on the newest technologies, that we fail to always deliver quality response. An increased dependence on technology might increase the consequences when these technologies break or are unable to be accessed.

In the last few years, the U.S. Naval Academy has resumed training their officers to navigate via the old fashioned and seemingly outdated sextant.[2] At one point, this was the only way to determine a ship’s location. Research found that in the cases such as cyber-attacks interfering with GPS signals on our naval ships, many of the naval officers were unable to navigate without the tons of technology on our ships. The tech that makes us the best Navy in the world is valuable and I am not advocating moving backwards, but many naval officers have forgotten how to use the more elementary methods of navigation, making us less effective.

A few years ago, I was sitting in an EOC watching a strong storm system roll across my area of responsibility, and the power went off. After a few minutes someone asked, “How are we going to know what the weather is?” Without missing a beat someone said, “Let’s look outside.” While it is funny now, it taught us a good lesson at the time. We were so dependent on the technology of the Weather Channel; we had forgotten how we used to do it.

Again, I am no Luddite, but I believe we can get so lost in the tech that supposedly makes our lives easier, that we actually become less effective and less prepared.

[1] A Luddite is a person opposed to new technology or ways of working.


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