The Role of Computer Technology in Tackling Future Global Challenges
Beginning the second half of the 20th century, the world has increasingly been reduced to a global village, characterized by closer relations between and amongst people living in diverse geopolitical locales. Although the integration of world economies and greater interaction amongst countries is not a new phenomenon, it is apparent that globalization has attained remarkably high levels. Notably, the currently trajectory is one where ideas, inventions innovations, and concepts generated in one country or region are disseminated at an extraordinarily fast rate to other parts of the world. Indeed, the era whereby the challenges or successes in a particular state were treated as purely issues of national concern is far much gone. In this regard, Sherry Turkle observes: “Never has our world been more complex, hybridized, and global. Never have we so needed to have many contradictory thoughts and feelings at the same time.” (259). Despite the numerous advantages and successes attributable to increased globalization, the world faces unprecedented challenges in the foreseeable future.
More than ever before, the global society faces significant issues in virtually all areas of life, ranging from optimal and responsible use of resources, to handling the persistent injustices and inequalities that characterize today’s socioeconomic, cultural, and political relations (Glenn and Gordon 86). Unchecked, the world could be immersed in deep chaos in the coming five or so decades. As has often been articulated, technology remains a central element in facilitating increased global integration. Although technology has constantly been blamed for the problems we face today, a critical observation highlights that continued invention and innovation in computer technology will suffice in tackling some of the pressing global challenges in future.
Despite the fact that the world faces numerous environmental challenges presently, the situation can only be expected to get worse in the foreseeable future. In contemporary context, the world is grappling with realities such as an ever growing and urbanized population; limited natural resources precipitated by prolonged use and the general lack of interest in checking resource exploitation; and the ominous threat of irreversible climate change (Schramm 128). In essence, these realities highlight the need to make stern reflections on how we relate with the environment that has supported us for centuries on end. Based on current projections, there is general consensus that the human population is increasingly becoming part of the global ecosystem, unlike in the past when matters related to climatic and environmental change were largely treated as issues of national concern. According to current UN projections for instance, the global food supplies are sufficiently adequate, considering that the world produces approximately one and a half times the amount needed to feed the entire population (World Future Council). However, realities such as the thirty five thousand people dying of starvation daily, and the estimated twenty five million who are victims of pesticide poisoning annually raise concerns as to whether the progress made in global food production is equitably beneficial. Besides, it is also evident that the impact of continued desertification occasioned by severe climatic changes, in addition to soil erosion, will significantly reduce the land available for arable activity. In the next fifty or so years, the world’s food production capacity may be significantly reduced, irrespective of whether or not new agricultural technologies such as organic farming are invented. Thus, the world faces the great challenge of devising alternative food production strategies.
Incidences such as the melting of glaciers, erratic weather patterns, and increased global temperatures leave no doubt that climate change has become a dawning reality. The IPPC projects a global mean temperature increase of about 5.8 degrees by the end of the 21st century, and rises in sea level of up to 1 meter (Glenn and Gordon 27). It is no doubt that the human factor is exacerbating the problem, particularly through environmental pollution. The general reluctance to adopt alternative and safer energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal power, coupled with the unprecedented environmental pollution occasioned by increased industrialization and mobility indicate that the problem of climate change will only get severe in the foreseeable future. Should natural oil and gas resources be depleted before feasible energy alternatives are devised, the likely result will be widespread disruption of societies. This is so considering the very controversial nature of nuclear-related energy sources, which have been suggested as possible alternatives (Schramm 128). The adoption of nuclear energy, which is known to introduce toxic wastes into the environment, would most likely aggravate the already severe problem of climatic change, besides threatening the very survival of humanity.
One defining feature of the globalization process in contemporary context is increased human mobility. Based on the accumulated body of facts, it is evident that realities such as political and economic globalization, increased ethnic and racial conflicts, and scarcity of resources and opportunities remain critical to the acceleration of human movement the world over. Currently, an estimated 175 million people are considered international migrants (World Future Council). Similarly, socio-political upheavals such as the recent genocide in Sudan continue to force millions out of their residences into foreign lands. Whereas migration precipitated by internal conflict is generally recognized as a humanitarian initiative, voluntary movement, especially in search for better socioeconomic opportunity, continues to raise diverse concerns. In the recent years for instance, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of those migrating to the developed world. With the development challenges that encourage mobility from the developing world remaining largely unsolved, we can only expect higher rates of immigration in the foreseeable future, often with far-reaching implications. In this era of increased threats of global terrorism, the growing immigration will continue to pose security concerns to the recipient nations. In addition, social integration in the receiving nations tends to be problematic, a factor attributable to xenophobia (Mathes 225). On another front, increased immigration will lead to continued brain drain, despite its beneficial nature to the receiving nations. Majority of immigrants are the most skilled and qualified workers who fail to secure opportunities in their home countries. Thus, the development deficit that exists between the developed wealthy nations and relatively poor developing countries will only widen. This trend raises doubts as to whether globalization will ever realize its core objective of fostering equitable development.
The effects of the demographic changes witnessed today are likely to become magnified in decades to come. Although the characteristic of the world population have significantly changed beginning the second half of the 20th century, nowhere is this change more evident that in the developed countries such as those in Europe and North America. Particularly, increase in life expectancy as a result of improvement in medical and heath services has led to a remarkable change in age structure. Unlike in the past, the larger proportion of the world population is generally becoming older. For instance, approximately 50 percent of Germany’s population will be over 51 years old by 2050 (Schulte-Hillen 3). The country is also expected to experience a population decrease of an estimated seventeen million people. In essence, such changes will have various implications, especially in the arena of employment. In many parts of the world, the proportion of workers aged between 45 and 60 has been on the increase, and can only be expected to rise in future. By 2040 for example, the number of Germans aged sixty and above who will be potentially working will have increased to about 3.6 million (Schulte-Hillen 4). Embracing a critical view reveals that these demographic shifts will have a negative impact on the world’s economy. This is mainly because economic productivity is favored by an expansion, rather than a contraction of the effective working life represented in this case by the younger population.
Based on the available facts, it appears that computer technology remains underutilized. In essence, the effective use and expansion of computer technologies could provide a viable way of handling some of the world’s pressing needs in future. The dissemination of knowledge to the world’s population remains a key strategy of tackling the global climate change. It is a bare fact that a significant majority of people lack knowledge on the actual elements involved in climatic change. Out of ignorance, people engage in environmentally-harmful practices such as dumping of non-biodegradable wastes, unnecessary use of energy, and engaging in agricultural activities that do not favor sustainability. Thus, the provision of sound information on environmental degradation facts, the evident signs of climatic change, and future projections should the current trends persist would go a long way in enabling the world population to make wise choices concerning their environment (U.S. Department of Labor 93). Indeed, education facilitated by computer technology remains a viable way of realizing this objective. Whereas people in the industrially developed countries have access to such information from the media, both electronic and print and as well the internet, little success has been achieved in the poor, developing nations. However, there is still a glimmer of hope. The recent past has witnessed a marked improvement in access to modern technologies, particularly mobile phones. Additionally, the penetration of broadband technologies has led to an increase in the number of those accessing the internet. As scientists continue to produce fairly cheap and accessible information technologies, it is expected that the world population will be made aware of the looming climatic crisis, thus encouraging a change in attitude.
For quite a long time, the developed nations have been portrayed as the centers of excellence in learning, besides providing more satisfying opportunities for job and career development (Mathes 204). This conceptualization is responsible for triggering massive immigration into these countries, often aggravating security concerns, encouraging lopsided development due to brain drain, precipitating human conflict, and exacerbating environmental pollution. The availability of modern computer technology has the potential to alter this trend. Particularly, the manufacture of affordable computers and increased internet access has enabled students in the developing world to access a wide array of academic resources, including journals published in various parts of the world. Today, the number of students enrolling for online degree programs has tremendously increased (Cunha and Maropoulos 128). A student living in sub-Saharan Africa can now enroll in an American university offering online undergraduate of masters programs. Through computer technology, people living in one part of the world can still find employment in far off places, without necessarily having to move. Technologies such as teleconferencing and the internet as well have indeed led a significant revolution in job recruitment, interviewing techniques, and work operations and relations. The expansion of these technologies in future will definitely suffice in minimizing unnecessary human mobility.
From the ongoing, it is evident that the world faces numerous and more complex challenges in the foreseeable future. Despite the integral approach embraced in tackling the problems experienced presently, lasting solutions have remained elusive. Even the marked technological advancements made in such fields as agriculture, energy, and biomedicine have only sufficed as partial solutions. However, the expanded and effective use of computer technologies provides a viable way of addressing the current and future world problems. Particularly, the dissemination of knowledge through communication technologies will serve to inform people about the existence of global challenges like environmental and climatic change, and as well induce action of checking the same. Additionally, human mobility often cited as a key factor precipitating human conflict and perpetuating inequitable development between the developed and developing nations, will be minimized by increased availability of computers and the internet. In a nutshell, there is optimism that the world may actually become a better place to live in future, thanks to continued invention and innovation in computer technologies.
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