Technology and society
Technology is a term that refers to both artifacts created by humans, such as machines, and the methods used to create those artifacts. Technology affects the way individuals learn, communicate, and think. It defines society and determines how one interacts with others on a day to day basis. Technology has both advantageous and disadvantageous outcomes on the society.
This essay will revolve around how technology shapes the society as well as how the society contributes towards shaping technology. If we suppose that new technologies are introduced to achieve increased efficiency, the history of technological advancement shows that we would sometimes be disappointed. Technological change expresses a panoply of human motives (Winner, 1980)1. Because of technological advancement many jobs have been eliminated causing increased unemployment in various sectors of some highly developed countries and has created an uneven distribution of income. However, on the contrary underdeveloped countries have used this strategy to increase employment and have become giant manufacturers in exports, according to (Winner,1980)1, the technology also has another face that includes inequality. Lastly technology drives the industrial output, which leads to industrialisation creating a new era of increased technological unemployment.
Technology is progressive and in one way it is shaped by business and society. For example, apple makes new phone every year with minor tweaks and innovation. Technology is used to promote business, helps to achieve better efficiency and higher productivity. In China, Alibaba rates a person based on the data it collects, technology monitors people: example of this can be witnessed in many places such as on WhatsApp which reads the receipt and university attendance cards. Due to this technological activity, people are more aware which has a positive effect on society.
The author, Lewis Mumford (1964)2, suggested the pre-occupancy of two systems; the Authoritarian and the Democratic. Both the systems consist of an advantage and disadvantage, which would prove the minor and major between the two existing systems.2
Thus, environmentalist Denis Hayes concludes: “The increased deployment of Nuclear power facilities must lead society toward authoritarianism. Indeed, safe reliance upon nuclear power as the principle source of energy may be possible only in totalitarian state.”
– (Hayes, 1977)3
Additionally, he contends that “dispersed solar sources are more compatible than centralized technologies with social equity, freedom and cultural diversity.”
– (Hayes, 1977)3
In 1776, Adam Smith’s masterwork ‘The Wealth of Nations’ praised the great variety of “very pretty machines” that manufacturers were installing to “facilitate and abridge labour.” By enabling “one man to do the work of many” (Carr,2014)4. He predicted, mechanization would provide a great boost to industrial productivity. Factory owners would earn more profits, which they would then invest in expanding their operations building more plants, buying more machines and hiring more employees. Each individual machine’s abridgment of labour, far from being bad for workers, would stimulate demand for labour in the long run. Political argument supports to increase the production of innovative products, which means there is always new technology to help expedite the production and make work simpler. As a result, causing a decrease in job opportunities in many industries. For example, in the agricultural industry the number of tomato growers declined, due to the mechanical tomato harvester, perfected by researchers at the University of California, caused a further loss of roughly 32,000 jobs in tomato industry. This is a negative consequence of mechanisation (l Winner pg.126). Whereas, in underdeveloped countries such as China and India, there has been positive effects of mechanisation technology, producing many jobs for people. Henceforth, to dominate economically, various countries have attempted to create technology as cheap as possible. One benefit of training employees to specialise in one particular task, which involves working closely with technology, is an increase in productivity. However, due to cheap labour, competition has increased between more developed and underdeveloped countries. America, for example, outsources their work to China causing an uneven distribution of income. Indicating how society uses technology to establish a positive or negative effect on the lives of individuals.
Moreover, as we have observed how technology has helped to develop society by creating more jobs and having seen the overall pie of the economy growing, there are some, even a majority, whom may be affected negatively by the advancement of technology. As the demand for labour falls, especially unskilled labour, so too does wages.
The noble prize-winning economist Wassily Leontief stated in 1983: “the role of humans as the most important factor of production is bound to diminish in the same way that the role of horses in agricultural production was first diminished and then eliminated by the introduction of tractor”1
– (Leontief, 1983)
In contradiction, a panel of economist assembled by the National Academy of Sciences made a strong, comprehensive and positive statement that technological advancement will not eliminate human labour jobs. On the other hand, in a competitive market, reducing the cost of production will result in a decline in the price of a finished good. Technological change frequently increases the output demand which will result in greater demand for the labour.
In this context, Winner Studies formed major insights, which expresses that technology also has another face that includes inequality. For example, winner states that in the united states many overpasses on the motorways have been built to achieve purposes of inequality and racial prejudice. In fact, these overpasses are extremely low and they do not allow the public transport with lower class people mainly blacks to get through them.1 Which justifies that winner’s argument on “Do artifacts have politics “was valid.
Lastly technology drives output, leading towards industrialisation due to cheap technology and globalisation it has now become easier than ever for countries to manufacture goods.
Industrialization is the practice with the help of which an economic system is transformed from mainly agricultural to one based on the producing of products. Person manual hard work is frequently changed with the aid of mechanised mass production this process is known as automation. Vast number of countries have approved this strategic method due to globalisation. After 1970s the world economy entered new phase of capitalist globalisation. This involved revolutionary changes in information technology, widespread privatisation, liberalisation of international trade. (Nolan ,1970s)5 The period of the global business revolution witnessed massive asset restructuring, with firms selling off their non-core business in order to develop their core business. By the 1980s the global business saw for the first time the emergence of widespread industrial concentration across all the high-income countries. Large firms with their headquarters in high income countries built a global production system through both organic growth and explosive merger and acquisition this led to a new separation of ownership and control. (Nolan ,1980s)5
According to Leontief (1983, p.409), the phenomenon of technological unemployment has been affecting underdeveloped countries for many years under the name of “Disguised agricultural unemployment”6. Furthermore, Wassily Leontief (1983, p.406) states many different kinds of remedies in his texts which would help to tackle the problem of unemployment and income distribution, but the countries and businesses are not willing to sacrifice the benefits produced by these technological advances to solve this problem and they prefer to maintain their strong position in the market even if many workers suffer from this situation.6 Technological changes will primarily affect the demand for labour, although at the same time it will increasingly affect the supply for example it has been estimated that the output of four- ounce prescription bottles is forty-one times greater per man hour, electric light bulb can be produced thirty-one times more rapidly by machine than by hands.7Recent estimates of technological unemployment by the author Ewan Claque suggests that early in 1929 there were a million fewer workers engaged in manufacturing than there were in 1920.8
Hence, from the above study it can be concluded, technological advancement and automation may cause higher unemployment in short term but in long term it will create more jobs. To tackle technological unemployment in the short term, government in advance countries can help by introducing unemployment relief programme and also offer “income policies” whereas in less developed countries government can use traditional income maintenance measure which would be more effective. I completely agree with the theory discussed by professor Paul Douglas.9 He disagrees entirely with the writers like Brynjolfsson and McAfee who fear that technological unemployment results in an increase number of the permanent unemployment. He concludes that the “net result of these technological improvements is not permanent unemployment, as at first seemed to be the case, but rather a transfer of labour from some lines to others” and that it is “clear that permanent technological unemployment is impossible”.9