The Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology
The latter part of the 20th Century saw the start of a new revolution in technology that seemed every bit as powerful as the industrial revolution that preceded it.
The impacts and developments of the new 20th Century technologies are not easy to assess, as they are still very much part of an ongoing process that may well only just be beginning.
The new technologies that have caused such upheaval are inter-related and overlap to some degree. They include:
- Computers. They began to gain a foothold back in the 1980s and are now found in almost every aspect of modern life, in one form or another.
- New communication technologies. 3G, the internet, mobile phones, and wifi technology have all contributed to a world where people and information can be accessed from virtually anywhere.
- Digitally formats. The digital format for storing information has revolutionized how all sorts of information, from photos, to documents, to music, to videos are stored and transmitted.
- Multifunctional devices. Modern devices can often now perform multiple tasks, which would have been performed by many different devices previously. For instance, we now have single mobile devices that are a telephone, internet browser, camera, video player, webcam, music player, etc. all in one.
- New military weapons. Pilotless drone aircraft, for example, are becoming increasingly uncommon, as technology advances, but they are proving to be very controversial. Cyber warfare is another area where modern technology is increasingly becoming militarized.
Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.— Carrie Snow
Technology is a gift of God. After the gift of life it is perhaps the greatest of God's gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts and of sciences.— Freeman Dyson
The Advantages of Technology
- Thanks to the internet and mobile technologies, we can communicate with anyone in the world and form relationships with people who are some distance away, rather than being limited to people within our physical vicinity. This has some great positives for both work and home life.
- The increased automation of manufacturing and many other jobs, thanks to computers, means greater efficiency, less people doing boring repetitive jobs, and an increase in flexibility regarding work times. Many jobs can now be done remotely, thanks to the internet, with many workers increasingly being able to work from home at times of their choosing.
- The wealth of information that is now available is astonishing. In theory, at least, having access to the internet means having access to almost all of the world’s knowledge. Increasingly we don’t even need to be sat at a desk to access the information either, as mobile devices become more and more powerful.
- The entertainment industry has experienced a revolution. Consumers now have an incredible choice of movies, shows, games, music, and other entertainment available 24/7. The music and film industries have been democratized as artists are no longer reliant on companies to fund and promote them, as they can do it all themselves.
- Technology can now be used to advance itself. Science is benefiting massively from the lightning speeds that computers can perform calculations and investigate complex questions that would take humans many lifetimes to answer. Medical breakthroughs, chemical and astronomical discoveries have all been made due to computers.
- Modern technology saves us lots of time, whether it’s our computer regulated cars driving us to work, washing-machines to do our laundry, or automated banking to allow us to pay by credit card, use internet banking, or get cash out from the ATM.
- Computer regulation and automation means that many devices and machines now function much more efficiently and use less power, either because they are working at the most efficient rate, or they automatically switch themselves off when not in use. This provides benefits for the environment as well as being a cost saver.
Technology is such a broad kind of term, it really applies to so many things, from the electric light to running cars on oil. All of these different things can be called technology. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with it, as I expect most people do. With the computer, I spend so many hours sitting in front of a computer.— Jeff Bridges
The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.— Steve Ballmer
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, allowing us to do things more quickly and efficiently. But too often it seems to make things harder, leaving us with fifty-button remote controls, digital cameras with hundreds of mysterious features and book-length manuals, and cars with dashboard systems worthy of the space shuttle.— James Surowiecki
Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.— Aldous Huxley
The Disadvantages of Technology
- Human relations are diminished in the virtual world. As online social networking increasingly replaces real face-to-face and physical contact, alienation can increase, as well as problems such as cyber-bullying, online stalking and cyber crime, which are related to the anonymity of the internet.
- Human beings are less and less valued in the workplace as their roles are replaced by computers. Outsourcing has meant bigger profits for companies, but a decline in wages and conditions and more unemployment for ordinary workers, especially in Western nations. Multinational corporations are increasingly impossible to control by individual nation states.
- Issues of privacy have become huge, as it becomes increasingly difficult to control personal information in the digital and internet world. Financial details can be hacked into, candid photos or videos posted on the web, slurs and accusations made against people's characters, and personal identities can be stolen.
- Intellectual property theft and piracy have made it more and more difficult for creative people to make any money from their output. Media can be digitalized and then distributed across the internet very easily and the process seems impossible to control. Ultimately it will lead to a decline in artistic and creative quality as people no longer have the time and funds to pursue projects.
- Modern societies are increasingly dependent on technology. So much so, that many basic services such as hospitals, power grids, airports, rail and road transport systems, and military defenses can now be knocked out by cyber attack or a catastrophic failure. Humans would be almost helpless if the technology was taken away overnight.
- We are increasingly becoming overwhelmed by the information overload that modern technology brings, as we are bombarded by irrelevant emails, sales telephone calls, text messages, internet advertising etc. Rather than saving us time, new technology means that we are expected to process more and more information and work even more intensively.
- Technology brings with it all sorts of enviromental problems. As well as machines and devices often being made from toxic, or non-biogradable materials, most technologies need a power source, which can often mean an increase in the consumption of electricity and fossil fuels.
- Technology has a general dehumanizing effect. As well as in the workplace, the military is increasingly becoming more technological. An example is pilotless drone aircraft, which can attack and kill people with the controller many thousands of miles away.
It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.— Albert Einstein
Do you think that society has gained from technology overall?
© 2012 Paul Goodman