During a time of news stories regarding cybersecurity and hackers, contestants of the 23rd Annual Great American Think-Off in New York Mills were quick to remind the audience that technology includes more than just our phones and computers.
The four contestants were asked to take a side in a debate asking “Does technology free us or trap us?”
Winning the debate was David Lapakko, of Minneapolis, Minn., who argued that technology frees us, largely through its ability to provide more options than would be possible otherwise.
The definition of “freedom” was as hotly contested as technology, however.
Paul Terry, the 2013 Think-Off champion and Lapakko’s opponent in the final round, argued that anything requiring regulation, is a necessity, or takes people by surprise cannot, by definition, be freeing. Therefore, it must be a trap.
Of technology’s improvements, Terry argued that “the more we get, the more we won’t settle.”
Such an implication of the need for more and newer technology also makes it a trap, Terry said.
Lapakko was not afraid of admitting drawbacks of technology.
“We all look at more screens than we should,” he said. Still, Lapakko remained firm on the point that the using technology is optional, and said, “These are choices we make, and we like.”
“Everything involves some obligations,” said Lapakko, quick to point out that inasmuch as clothes are required by many establishments, they could be considered “trapping.”
But Lapakko insisted he sees “nothing inherent about technology that has to limit.” On the contrary, he sees it as able to provide an “expansion of awareness” that “can enhance our understanding.”
Having mentioned his experience in a minefield in Mozambique in his essay, Terry’s closing remarks also rang of the doomsday potential of technology.
Lapakko responded by saying he thinks most technology is “not that lethal.”
David Eckel, who also argued that “technology frees us” in the first round before being eliminated, echoed Lapakko’s closing remarks. “Technology is an extension of the brain,” Eckel said.
Marsh Muirhead, who argued that technology traps us, was also eliminated in the first round of debate.