Technology as a Tool

One of the points that I try to make when I speak on Cyber Safety is that technology itself is neither good nor bad – the morality of technology comes in how that technology is used.

I had a perfect example of this recently. I was speaking in Salt Lake, about 45 miles from my home, and when I got back in my car to drive to my next engagment, I couldn’t turn the key to start my car. Evidently, the tumblers in my ignition column decided they were tired of tumbling, and wanted a permanent rest. After coming to the realization that no amount of fidling with the key would get it to turn, I gave up and called my wife to come rescue me. We left my car in Salt Lake City, returned home, and apologized profusely for missing a speaking engagement (that is probably the worst part of this for me, but that is not the point of this post).

Since the next day was a holiday, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get the car fixed for at least one more day. I really didn’t want to leave it on the street, and worried about how to fix it so far away from my house. I knew that we couldn’t tow it home because I have to turn the key in order to get the car out of park, so we were pretty much stuck. Being the “computer geek” that my wife frequently reminds me that I am, I decided to turn to the Internet to see if anyone had been thoughtful enough to post instructions about how to hotwire a car. Sure enough, I quickly found step-by-step instructions. I returned to my car, followed the instructions and was soon on the road returning my car to our driveway to be fixed sometime in the future.

Prior to this incident, had I run across instructions online about how to hotwire a car, my first thoughts would have been about how this information contributes to the deliquency of minors, and teaches kids how to embark on a life of crime. While there still may be an element of truth to that sentiment, I am grateful to have found the information I needed to assist in a very valid need of getting my property back to my own home. People who want to steal cars will figure out how to do it, with or without the Internet. The fact that instructions are posted online is not in-and-of-itself evil.

As I continue to say, the Internet is neither good nor bad – it simply “is”. How we use the information we come across on the Internet is where we put that information to good use or evil use. The ethics and morality of how we use technology is completely in our own hands. It is important to remember that, since there are not many things that you cannot find out about on the information superhighway today. It is even more important to teach our children this concept so they understand how to use technology as a tool to help uplift, and not to drag down.

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