Modern Technology vs. Natural Disasters

January 15, 2010Jake DiMare

Over the years I have occasionally been taken hostage at a cocktail party or backyard barbecue by some Luddite who, upon hearing what my career, goals, dreams and aspirations is centered around, will launch into a diatribe about the problems technology creates. Pretty close to the top of their list of concerns is the weakness reliance on technology creates in humanity. The argument being, in a catastrophe when technology fails, we will be vulnerable without it.
Well, in light of the horrific events unfolding in Haiti over the last 72 hours it may be time to put that fear to bed. Consider the facts currently occurring in one of recorded history’s worst natural disasters…
Before the earthquake survivors started receiving food, water or shelter:

  • Cell phone service returned
  • Survivors are linking to the rest of the world through Skype, Twitter and Facebook
  • News media is reporting from the front lines throughout the event using satellite phones and battery powered cameras in real time.
  • Google, with the help of the Satellite Imaging Corporation‘s GeoEye, is providing disaster relief coordinators with an unparalleled view of the situation with satellite imagery, linked databases and Google Earth.
  • Disaster relief funding receives 5 million dollars in funding through the user of short codes.
  • Normal, individual citizens like Richard Morse are Tweeting real time updates from the ground in Port Au Prince

In fact, all this happened before pretty much any 20th or even 19th century technology was brought to bear on the situation in Haiti. As quickly as the cost of a gallon of gas hit $25 you could send your relatives in the US a text message letting them know you are OK.
Often times we think of online communication tools like Twitter as frivolous or extraneous to real life. It seems so easy to overlook the astonishing impact the internet has had on culture and humanity in such a short amount of time. The reality is that even 20 years ago if you wanted to broadcast a message you had better be on the nightly news…and even then your chances of reaching the audience available on the internet were pretty slim.
Time will tell what happens next for the people suffering in Haiti…But history should reflect the first services that returned were some of the most modern amenities available.

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