Digital technology has unlocked new spheres of human thinking and creating knowledge. However, there are risks for humanity in terms of access, usage and human development.
Universal sharing and access of knowledge is facilitated by the use of digital technology. For example, the content of rare and unique books and manuscripts such as those held in The Library of Congress, Washington D.C. are now uploaded to the internet (The Library of Congress, Washington D.C. n.d.). This knowledge no longer restricted to those able to visit the library nor in the case of rarer literature only available to curators, academics and others within the ranks of the privileged few.
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For example, a surgeon in New York is able to speak directly with a specialist in Berlin regarding a surgical procedure, imparting valuable knowledge with expediency. But, use of certain technologies has concerned some within the medical profession.
Some physicians have been reluctant to embrace digital technology such as the implementation of electronic medical records (EMR), the digitalization of practices (Valentine 2014). The Valentine Medical Centre in New Orleans first incorporated EMR into its practice in 2007. The transition was not facile. "However, the benefits of effectively utilizing EMR far outweigh temporary administrative struggles, offering streamlined billing processes, decreased order errors, greater patient access to information, and improved health outcomes (Valentine 2014)." Other scientific fields have yielded positive results from the use of digital technologies.
The advent of digital technology has enabled validation of previously unproven or disputed scientific theories. For example, supercomputers are used to process, analyse and cipher incredible amounts of data expeditiously. Recently, string theory researchers at Osaka University were able to simulate the Big Bang, the rapid expansion of matter from a state of extremely high density and temperature that marked the origin of the universe, on a supercomputer, previously a mathematically insurmountable task (Wolchover 2011). This, and other discoveries, yield knowledge that will be used to develop our existing technologies, building upon ideas and changing contemporary thinking. But, not all will benefit from these discoveries.
Economic factors restrict the sharing of knowledge. The digital divide refers to the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society such as the poor, elderly and disabled, who do not have access to the internet or computers, and those who do (Digital Divide n.d.). Access and cost are prohibitive. Desktop computers, tablets and laptops require electric power and purchase capital. It was estimated in 2009 the number of people without access to electricity was 1.3 billion constituting almost 20% of the world’s population (International Energy Agency 2012). "More than a third of the world's population live on less than US$2.00 per day (Alexander 2012)." With so many lacking the means to access information raises questions regarding the control of knowledge.
"Knowledge itself is power (Bacon, F 1597)." As information becomes digitised, those who control digital mediums such as the internet determine how knowledge is disseminated. Governments in nations such as Burma, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria strictly control internet access. In North Korea all web-sites are under Government control and use is "limited to the political elite (Global Edge n.d.)." "China is believed to have the world's most sophisticated network for monitoring and limiting information online (McMahon 2011)." Governments manipulate and withhold information for...