Do changes that make our life easier always make them better?

“Technology promises to make our lives easier, freeing up time for leisure pursuits. But the rapid pace of technological innovation and the split second processing capabilities of computers that can work virtually nonstop have made all of us feel rushed. We have adopted the relentless pace of the very machines that we supposed to simplify our lives, with the result that, whether at work or play, people do not feel like their lives have changed for the better.”

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It was once said that “The only thing constant in life is change.” Indeed this maxim is true. Changes permeates most aspects of live, for better of for worse. Change (such as technological innovation) may make life easier, but change does not necessarily make life better. This can be demonstrated in both modern and ancient literature: in examples taken from the novel Flowers for Algernon and the epic poem The Odyssey.

In Flowers for Algernon, the protagonist Charlie Gordon is a mentally retarded bakery worker who records his thoughts in the form of journal entries, which compose the novel itself. As part of an experiment in psychology, Charlie undergoes a operation which causes his IQ to steadily increase until it rivals those of the scientists who originally operated on Charlie. His newfound intelligence brings him an easier life – he is able to better comprehend his surroundings and communicate more effectively with those around him. However, he becomes aware of the insults that others had directed toward him as a mentally handicapped man. He loses his job at the bakery. Charlie’s relationship with his teacher Alice Kinnion virtually dissolves. Some might argue that “Ignorance is bliss,” and that the operation only served to harm Charlie.

Achilles, the mythical demigod of Homer’s The Odyssey, is also presented with a scenario that results in an easier, but not necessarily better life. Achilles, as the “iron fist” of the Achaean army, faces off with the Trojans’ best soldier, Hector. After a cowardly struggle, Hector succumbs to the mighty blows of Achilles’ sword. Rather than release Hector’s body to his family for burial, Achilles chooses to deface Hector’s body, tying it to his chariot and dragging it about the Trojan plains. Did Achilles’ life become noticeably easier as a result of the demise of a great foe? Indeed, it did. No other man in the Trojan army is a match for Achilles (though the rather feminine Paris, brother of Hector, ultimately slays Achilles). However Achilles life is not better as the result of Hector’s death. He becomes depicted as a violent, bloodthirsty, ruthless man. The gods begin to view him as a bad person. In that sense, Achilles’ life became easier as the result of Hector’s death, but not better.

The examples of Flowers for Algernon and The Odyssey illustrate the fact that change may usher in easier, but not necessarily better lives. Living in a modern society in which technology advances at an astonishing rate, the question must be raised “Is this invention made for the betterment of our lives? Does it make life easier, but does it negatively affect our lives (does it make us lazier, more reliant on machine than our own skills)?

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