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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology

Paul has worked as a digital media teacher for many years. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida and works as freelance writer.

Learn about the many advantages and disadvantages of technology!

Learn about the many 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 interrelated 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.
  • Digital formats. The digital format for storing information has revolutionized how all sorts of information—photos, documents, music, videos, and more—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. Cyberwarfare is another area where modern technology is increasingly becoming militarized.

In this article, we will review the various advantages and disadvantages of technology. Let me know what you think about the ever-evolving world of technology in the comments below!

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, American stand-up comic

Here are several examples of how technology is improving the world.

Here are several examples of how technology is improving the world.

The Advantages of Technology

Internet and Mobile Technology Has Improved Home- and Work-Life

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 home-life and work-life. In regards to work-life, employees are able to communicate with co-workers from anywhere, which allows more employees to work from home.

Automation Has Improved Manufacturing Practices

The increased automation of manufacturing and many other jobs, thanks to computers, means greater efficiency, fewer 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.

This freedom cuts down on carbon emissions due to the lack of commuters and makes for a happier employee.

There Is a Greater Wealth of Information Available

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 sit at a desk to access the information either, as mobile devices become more and more powerful.

With this wealth of information, we are able to make learning more accessible and affordable, therefore creating a more educated society.

The Entertainment Industry Has Grown

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. It is easier to bring entertainment to all thanks to subscription costs and plans that are far more reasonable than buying tickets for a live show.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

— Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist

Technology Is Self-Sufficient

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 and chemical and astronomical discoveries have all been made due to computers. This frees up time and allows people to enjoy their freedom.

Technology Is a Time-Saver

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.

This extra time allows our society's biggest brains to continue developing more advanced technology.

Devices and Machines Function More Efficiently

Computer regulation and automation mean 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. Without needing to constantly repair machines, we only need to focus on improving pre-existing technology, which costs far less.

There are also environmental benefits due to the efficiency of these machines. As green energy becomes more popular, technology adapts by running on solar panels and wind turbines.

The '@' symbol has become synonymous with email in the modern world.  As well as being a convenient way to send letters and photos, however, emails can also contribute to a sense of 'information overload' for many people, especially in the workplace.

The '@' symbol has become synonymous with email in the modern world. As well as being a convenient way to send letters and photos, however, emails can also contribute to a sense of 'information overload' for many people, especially in the workplace.

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, former CEO of Microsoft

Now let's look at several disadvantages of technology and how they affect us.

Now let's look at several disadvantages of technology and how they affect us.

The Disadvantages of Technology

There Is a Lack of Human Relations

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 cybercrime, which are related to the anonymity of the internet.

Humans are social animals, so a lack of physical contact could lead to depression and anxiety. If we become detached from real-world communications, it will be difficult to be a functioning member of society and interact with others in a professional setting.

Humans Are Valued Less

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. It is estimated that 20 million jobs will be replaced by robots by 2030. This means that we must use our innovativeness to create new jobs for those whose skills can be automated.

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, American actor

Privacy Issues Have Grown

Issues of privacy have only increased as it becomes 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.

With password managers, although they make it so you don't need to memorize anything, it is really easy for someone who steals a computer and gain instant access to private accounts. And with site cookies, your information may not be encrypted, and thus be accessed by anyone.

Intellectual Property Theft and Piracy Makes It Difficult for Creatives to Make Money

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. It can be difficult and time-consuming to track down every thief or pirate, and there are often legal hurdles in the way.

The technological revolution has completely changed how we communicate with each other. Texting and video conversations are now commonplace.

The technological revolution has completely changed how we communicate with each other. Texting and video conversations are now commonplace.

Society Has Grown Dependent

Modern societies are increasingly dependent on technology. So much so, that many core 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 have stopped making things with our own hands and learning how to live off the land.

There Is an Overwhelming Amount of Information

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. Feeling pressured to constantly be up to date can be exhausting and enact a mental toll.

Technology Causes Environmental Problems

Technology brings all sorts of environmental problems. As well as machines and devices often being made from toxic or non-biodegradable materials, most technologies need a power source, which can often mean an increase in the consumption of electricity and fossil fuels.

Aside from power, some technology produces materials that are toxic. Although farming technology allows for cheaper and more diverse food options, the technology that makes it all—such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers—can be detrimental to humans and the environment.

Technology Can Be Dehumanizing

Technology has a general dehumanizing effect. Aside from the workplace, the military is increasingly becoming more technological.

An example is pilotless drone aircraft, which can attack and kill people with the controller thousands of miles away. There's an emotional, as well as physical, detachment, which is concerning when there are human lives at stake.

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, American journalist

Technology: A Double-Edged Sword

The technological revolution will only continue—and we must learn how to adapt to all of this new technology.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every advancement made, so it is impossible to deem technology a good or bad thing. The only thing we can do is try to utilize our newfound knowledge and resources to improve our world, rather than destroy it.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: What are the disadvantages of digital technology?

Answer: Disadvantages might include: 1. Excessive use of social media leading to a decline and disconnect in real life interactions; 2. Digital devices used to copy and share material in breach of copyright laws, such as music, movies, etc; 3. Devices such as smartphones distracting users from work, education, driving, or even crossing the street; 4. Issues with personal privacy - digital information can be stolen and intercepted; 5. Online bullying using smartphones, tablets, laptops.

Question: How does technology contribute to education?

Answer: There are numerous ways technology contributes to education. Virtual communications mean that education can now be delivered remotely to people in far off places. Technology improves access for disabled people. Lessons can be delivered through a wide range of media, including video, audio, text, or images. There is an abundance of material available, including free online help. Students can also submit essays and take tests online.

Question: What are the advantages of digital technology?

Answer: Advantages include: the easy storage and transfer of large amounts of information; the relative ease with which data can be manipulated or updated, such as photo or video editing; the enabling of new technologies such as webcams, digital photography, and digital radio.

Question: How does technology limit creativity ?

Answer: Some people argue that technology produces a form of creative laziness. In music, for example, musicians no longer need to play instruments in real time, rather they can repeat and edit samples, which can require far less skill. Vocalists can sing out of tune and have their voices digitally perfected afterward. Technology enables plagiarism and copyright infringement too, this cheapens the value of the arts and creativity generally, especially images, music, and video. Why put in a lot of effort when your ideas can so easily be stolen? Another problem is that the internet encourages low-level browsing, rather than the deeper involvement and appreciation that comes from a bigger commitment from recipients. An unimaginative one sentence meme often does better than a creative fifteen-minute video.

Question: What is digital technology?

Answer: Digital information is specific information, typically words and images, that is recorded in binary code. Binary code is the combination of the digits 0 and 1, also known as bits. Digital technology can refer to physical devices that store, send, or use digital information, such as personal phones, tablets, or CD players. Digital technology can also refer to any system or method that utilizes digital information; the branch of knowledge that deals with digital systems, methods, etc.; or to the practical application of this knowledge.

Question: What is technology?

Answer: Technology can mean: 1. The practical application of scientific knowledge. 2. A scientific invention, process, or method. 3. The branch of knowledge that deals with the practical application of science and engineering.

© 2012 Paul Goodman