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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

 

 

1)   
Winner,
L. ‘Do artifacts have politics’, Modern Technology: problem or opportunity?,
vol. 109, No. 1, pp.121-136.

 

2)   
Lewis
Mumford, “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics,” Technology and Culture, vol.5,
No 1, pp.1-8.

 

3)   
Denis Hayes, Rays of hope: The transition to a
Post-Petroleum World (New York: W.W. Norton,1977), pp.71,159.

 

4)   
Carr, Nicholas. “Should the Laborer Fear
Machines?” The Atlantic,
Atlantic Media Company, 29 Sept. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/should-the-laborer-fear-machines/380476/.

 

 

5)   
Nolan, P’Who are we’? IS CHINA BUYING THE WORLD?
pp.15-25.

 

 

6)   
Leontief,
W. (1983)’Technological Advance, Economic Growth, and the Distribution of
income, Population and Development Review, vol.9, No.3 ,pp.403-410.

 

 

7)   
“Displacement
of labour by machinery in the Glass industry, “monthly labour review, vol.24,
No 4, pp. 1-13,1927 

 

 

8)   
R. Clyde White, Social Forces, Technological
Unemployment, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 572-581.Available:URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3006155
Accessed 12/12/17.

 

 

9)   
 Paul H. Douglas, “technological unemployment,
American federationist, vol. 37, No. 8,1930, pp.923-950. Available:URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3006155
Accessed 12/12/17.

 

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