Introduction Since the industrial revolution, society has become more and more dependent on technology. So much so that we sometimes lack the willingness to think before we act. We become impatient if it takes more than a few seconds to download a copy of the morning news paper. We expect immediate responses to our email, and we expect someone to answer their cell phone whenever and wherever we call. “Industrialization resulted in rapid and sustained economic growth and a massive increase in consumer goods. But at the same time, for many people it meant a thoroughly unpleasant work environment.”1
People in today’s society are always looking for ways to improve their lifestyles and in some way help deal with their physical environment. Agriculture; Farming and cattle herding led to the growth of large, settled human populations and increasing competition for productive lands, touching off organized warfare. The need for transportation brought vehicles into the market. The need for employees brought mechanical robots into society. Battles over land brought on the need for sophisticated weapons. The agricultural system brought on a revolution.
The invention of the television has brought all forms of entertainment into our houses with video and audio combined. Before 1950, newspapers and radio were the only ways to bring media or entertainment into the house. Mass production and other job opportunities brought many people from the rural areas and farms into the city. Society is more reliant on technology than ever before. While technologies have their advantages there is a negative effect to all this technology as well. Technology can actually harm society rather then help it.
Competition between companies or even cities can sometimes make our lives for even worse. When a city builds more roads to attract tourists, the result is more traffic, not less. Even things we take for granted such as the automobile have negative effects on society. In order for us to operate cars we must have gasoline. The gasoline is the result of the refining of crude oil and most of this oil needs to be imported and sometimes accidents such as the Exxon Valdez incident spills many gallons of oil into the ocean. All of these examples show how technology has negative effects on society.
Technology and Society Sometimes, the introduction of a new technology can lead to competition among businesses. This competition can have a negative effect. When a company in the U.S. produces shoes and a company in Europe produces shoes as well, they must fight for their market share. If a company in Europe purchases more machines that will reduce the amount of workers needed and improve output, thus reducing the price of their product, they will place themselves in a market advantage.
If a company in the U.S. doesn't follow in their footsteps then they could be forced out of business. In this case the company is forced into buying the machines just so they can stay in business. This has a negative effect on the employees who will be replaced by the new machines.
When a city wants to attract tourists by building better roads to lessen traffic there is a mistake because this will only create more traffic since there will be more people wanting to travel these roads. By creating better roads, more people will want to travel these roads. If New York City built a new sophisticated highway to attract more tourists then more New Yorkers will want to travel these roads as well.
Many New Yorkers who previously used mass transit to travel to work will now want to use a car to travel to work. In effect there will be more traffic and more pollution. There will be other side effects as well. Real estate values of areas near the highway could go down. Competition can help a community in one aspect however it can hurt it as well. Competition can directly stimulate the economy; however, long term effects such as pollution and the loss of jobs could explain why the City of New York doesn't complete a project like this.
For many years, mankind had been use to doing everything for themselves. The main concern for man was survival. Survival meant you had to go out into the woods or forests and shoot animals for the food which the family needed in order to eat. People in industrialized societies never think about hunting for food or clothes. Now, it is all brought to people instantly through a new standard of survival. The new standard for survival means making money to go to a mall or supermarket and getting everything a family needs.
A family can get food and clothing at these places without ever having to go into a forest or a lake. This thought is ever so frightening. When a person from modern society goes into a supermarket and buys a pound of fish, he or she doesn't even think of the process that went into the arrival of that piece of fish. He or she didn't need to go to a lake, all that was needed was to drive to your local supermarket and buy it. No fishing or hunting was necessary. Society is losing its sense of common purpose.
But what effect will this have? I feel we are building virtual communities while our real cities crumble, at least partly because our sense of common purpose has frayed. “As of December, 2004, more than half of U.S. homes were wired with the high-speed pipeline to the Net. Online audiences are surging (5 million-strong for AOL's Live 8 concert coverage)."2 It seems as though we have found a way to escape the unpleasant complications of the world outside our locked doors by opting for communities in cyberspace.
A place where the streets never need to be cleaned and you don't have to keep an eye on your neighbor's house. Society is becoming complacent. Almost everything must be done in advance. However, sometimes this change in lifestyle is forced upon society. When a company decides to buy robots to do the job that man once did, and then the man is forced into either getting fired or watching the machine all day long. Technology has definitely changed the lifestyle and common purpose of many humans.
Technology we take for granted such as the automobile can have a negative effect on society. The automobile is one of the greatest inventions to come about in the last 100 years. It has helped the society to grow in ways never imagined before. It allowed people to move out of highly congested cities and move into the suburbs with more peaceful neighborhoods. Yet it also let people feel as if they were still a short drive away from the city. However, the negative effects of the automobile were not thought of in the early days.
In recent years, though, we have begun to realize just how much these ways of making life easier are costing us or future generations. Think about everything that's involved in the act of driving a car. First, the metal in the body of the car has to be mined. The plastic on the dashboard and other interior cosmetic components probably came from petroleum. Petroleum also becomes the gasoline that powers the car.
Extracting the petroleum involves wells and refineries all over the world. Tankers carry the oil across the seas. Sometimes, as in the case of the 1989 Exxon Valdez incident in Alaska's Prince William Sound, they spill it. These spills can destroy coastal habitats and kill thousands of fish in a matter of days. However, the time to clean and repair may take years.
Automobiles are a good example of how technology can backfire on this world. Automobile exhausts are polluting the atmosphere so much that the next big technological advancement should be to find a way to heal the environment. However, healing the environment sounds like a great plan except the demand for the use of automobiles keeps rising. As the demand rises, there will be a need to find more oil and the need to build more refineries to produce the petroleum to run this mode of transportation.
Society, for the most part, takes for granted this mode of transportation. People often live miles away from their place of business in order to escape the city life. No transportation means there is any way to get to work unless you switch to a job within walking range of your house or move into the city, close to your job.
Conclusion We must look at the advantages and consequences and measure if society will benefit or suffer from the technology. It seems as though technologies of the past, such as the automobile, were only considered for their positive effects and not the negative long term effects. If they were, there is a chance that the automobile never would have gone into production.
I believe that we will work our way through these issues, remembering that we are only in the infancy of the Information Age. I am confident that, while these things will change us, they will not destroy us. From what I have seen so far, the trip will be a bumpy one: full of potholes and diversions and detours and cul-de-sacs. But there will be achievements and success stories. The voyage may be as important as the destination.
References 1. Rudi Volti, Society and Technological Change, Fifth Edition, p.166 2. Johnnie L. Roberts, “Keepin’ it On the Download”, Newsweek, August 1, 2005, p.42