Technology’s Societal Impact Examined

Cornell Trumps Harvard in Debate at the State
Cornell University
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Four of the world’s top collegiate debaters argued the question “Is technology driving us in the wrong direction?” at the historic State Theatre in downtown Ithaca on April 26.

Moderated by S.E. Cupp ’00, host of CNN’s “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered,” the public debate drew more than 350 members of the Ithaca and Cornell communities.

Brittany Garcia ’19 and Adnan Muttalib ’16 MILR '18 argued for the proposition that technology has a net negative impact on society. Archie Hall and Danny DeBois, the Harvard pair that won the 2018 World University Debating Championships, opposed the proposition.

Muttalib said he foresees big changes due to technology, and illustrated his point by comparing Kodak and Instagram.

“They make pretty much the same amount of money when you count for inflation. However, Kodak had 125,000 employees. That means even though you make hundreds of millions of dollars, you distribute it among 125,000,” Muttalib said. “Instagram employs 12. That is the problem as those 12 people are millionaires who accrue money and political power.”

DeBois from Harvard responded, stating that the countries that developed were ones that embraced technology by erasing distance and placing everyone in the global supply chain.

In the 1980s, Chinese factory workers produced goods that no one in China could afford, but were paid for by people elsewhere in the world,” DeBois said. But, manufacturing has led China to lift 300 million people out of poverty during the past 20 years.

Garcia argued that technology is focused on making labor cheaper.

“It has primarily been used to increase profit margins,” Garcia said. “So, it is true that technology has resulted in being able to produce things quickly and more cheaply.”

Hall said, “While technology is heading in the right direction, sometimes the car might go off the road. Let’s get right back on it and keep going, rather than turning around completely. Eventually, that car will drive itself and drive itself very well.”

The panel of judges was made up of Mayor Svante Myrick CALS ’09; ILR Senior Lecturer Sam Nelson, director of the Cornell Speech and Debate Society, and Leah Salgado ’12, former speech and debate president.

The judges gave Cornell a 2-to-1 victory over Harvard.