Ladies and gentleman imagine this scenario: a worker in an assembly line is force fed his lunch by a feeding machine and kept working non-stop to maintain high productivity. He must gobble the corn quickly to keep pace with the machine and remain still to avoid being slapped by the machine. Ridiculous, right? You might recognize it as a scene from Charlie Chaplin’s classic movie Modern Times, which depicts the dark side of industrialization during the Great Depression. Although the scene is amusing, it makes one ponder the relationship between technology and humans. Where does humanism fit into the equation in a technologically advanced world?
Humanism is human-oriented quality that inspires human intellectualism to create a good society with happiness for all. However, since high technology makes up the mainstream of civilization today, the “human factor” has been ignored to some extent. Subconsciously, many people bow to the view of efficiency plus individual profit as the king in the technologically advanced world, and are willing to sacrifice the rights of others. Just as in Chaplin’s movie, technology may be dominated by instant utilitarianism instead of being guided by humanism.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s take a close look at our present circumstances. Last summer, I heard a shocking story from my cousin, who was an intern journalist in a famous newspaper agency. He was working in one of the tallest buildings in the coastal city with an overview of picturesque scenery of a golf park out of the window. He sat in the office equipped with air conditioner and wrote reports by Apple. He thought life would be like this. However, when he stepped into a factory to do an investigation on the lives of migrant workers, he found would be the other way around. It was an 80-decibel-noisy factory only with the roar of the machine. Along the assembly line, thousands of workers buried themselves in repetitive work of screwing nails, forbidden to talk with others. But their payment was just 2 yuan per hour. On the door of a shabby and dirty restroom hung an elaborate punch-card machine imported from Japan, it was quite contrastive. Workers have to punch the clock even if they went to restroom, as their payment was calculated by second. If the worker couldn’t catch up with the assembly line, he would possibly be fired. For these people, labour insurance, welfare were just mentioned in the newspaper or TV reports.
I don’t know what humanism means to these migrant workers. They don’t even have the basic human dignity. Their only concerned is how to survive rather than how to live in the city. I see no difference between the punch-card machine and that feeding machine in the movie. In the hand of some individuals void of humanism, technology has become a dominant tool to control those migrant workers to earn profits.
Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t want a feeding machine in modern times. What we do pursue is a world of peace, harmony, and happiness for all. Technology can push the human society forward, but only under the guidance of the human heart, so please let “humanism” be the guiding star in advancing the world of technology!