Saudi Society and Technology advancement - how technology has altered society, not always for the best.

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Saudi Society and Technology advancement

Almost 65 years have passed, since my father’s pastime amusement as a small child during bright summer nights was counting the stars in the clear skies as he lay down on the straw mat on the roof of the small mud house. In the distance one could occasionally hear the crying of a cock or by the barking of dogs running down the street, which was not too far away since houses then were built no more than four meters high. The chirp of crickets was so familiar and constant you get used to it as if it were not there. It was the buzzing and bites of mosquito, which was most annoying. But the most revolutionary change came when transistor radios were introduced into my father’s village and people were then able to buy them and, as my father lay down at night on the roof he used to put them next to his heads to listen to his favorite songs and programs. It was at this juncture that technology began to drive a wedge between us and nature. We forgot all about the stars and we turned our gaze from up to down. All of a sudden we found ourselves wanting to wash our hands with soup and dry them with towels, and we started telling times by watches instead of by the length and direction of the shade. Another revolutionary change came about when wood was replaced by kerosene burners for cooking and bare light bulbs fixed on the mud walls replaced kerosene lamps as a source of light. I am sure most of the canned foods we craved then out of novelty were expired and not fit for human consumption.

Such awful gadgets did not only cut us off from watching the stars and listening to the sounds of chirping crickets and crying cock. As I recall my father telling me that when it was past midnight, the most pleasant, soothing sounds of natural human voices came from various directions as criers mounted minarets to call for the Fajr Salah, morning prayer.  It is amazing how the human voice can carry and modulate in the stillness of the night. It used to sink in and seep through gently into ones whole being. All of a sudden this most pleasant sound turned into a jarring screech when the criers started using microphones and turning them all the way up, as if to force it on you. It began to sound like muster or summon, rather than call to prayers.

Comparing the life style of back then to today it makes one realize how much has changed in the last few decades in the country. Some may think it’s a dramatic change others would argue no its an evolution over time.  Usually, change is unpredictable, comes all of a sudden and it might be for better or for worse. It could be revolutionary, violent and disruptive, but it could also be quite and benign. On the other hand, with the right knowledge, proper technology, and sufficient funds, change could be willed, planned and directed towards certain ends in order to achieve desirable goals. The advancement of a country is measured by how much control and planning it could exercise over changes affecting its future. Only countries which have gone a long way on the road of progress and development, especially in the fields of science and technology, could have a certain measure of control over their destinies.

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Evolution is a different story. It is an inevitable response that cannot be planned or predicted. It is a gradual adaptation to changing circumstances that happens in very small imperceptible increments and it is mostly beneficial. Living organisms adjust to their natural environment through biological evolution that could take millions of years. Fast changing environment may not give the organism time to adapt to it and this could spell extinction for the species. Only human species has the capacity to adjust through cultural evolution, which is a much faster and more flexible process.

Saudi Arabia is going through ...

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