Monday, December 7, 2009

Sociological Factors and Effects of Technology

Technology is a word with origins in the Greek “technologia”“techne”, (“craft”) and “logia”, (“saying”). “Technology” is a broad term dealing with the use and knowledge of humanity’s tools and crafts.

Definitions:

It is difficult to obtain precise definition of technology. According to the involved science fields and engineering domain where it is developed, there are many kinds of BIGFOOT IS REAL technologies. Generally, the following distinctions can be made:

· Science is the formal process of investigating natural phenomena. It produces information and knowledge about the world.

· Engineering is the goal-oriented process of designing and building tools and systems to exploit natural phenomena for a practical human means. Engineers work within the constraints of natural laws and societal needs to create technology.

· Technology is the consequence of these two processes and societal requests. Most commonly, the term technology is used as the name of all engineering products.

For scientists and engineers, technologies are: conceptual tools – as methods, methodologies, techniques; instruments—as machines, apparatus, and software programs; as well as, different artificial materials which they normally use.

Until recently, it was believed that the development of technology was a concept akin and restricted only to human beings, but recent studies show that other primates (such as chimpanzees), and certain dolphin communities, have developed simple tools and learned to pass this knowledge to other generations, what would constitute a form of non-human technological development.

Sociological Factors and Effects:

The use of technology has a great many effects; these may be separated into intended effects and unintended effects. Unintended effects are usually also unanticipated and often unknown before the arrival of a new technology. Nevertheless, they are often as important as the intended effect.

The most subtle side effects of technology are often sociological. They are subtle because the side effects may go unnoticed unless carefully observed and studied. These may involve gradually occurring changes in the behavior of individuals, groups, institutions, and even entire societies.

Values:

The implementation of technology influences the values of a society by changing expectations and realities. The implementation of technology is also influenced by values. There are (at least) three major, interrelated values that inform, and are informed by, technological innovations:

· Mechanistic world view: Viewing the universe as a collection of parts, (like a machine), that can be individually analyzed and understood (McGinn). This is a form of reductionism that is rare nowadays. However, the “neo-mechanistic world view” holds that nothing in the universe cannot be understood by the human intellect. Also, while all things are greater than the sum of their parts (e.g., even if we consider nothing more than the information involved in their combination), in principle, even this excess must eventually be understood by human intelligence. This is, no divine or vital principle or essence is involved.

· Efficiency: A value, originally applied only to machines, but now applied to all aspects of society, so that each element is expected to attain a higher and higher percentage of its maximal possible performance, output, or ability. (McGinn)

· Social progress: The belief that there is such a thing as social progress, and that, in the main, it is beneficent. Before the Industrial Revolution, and the subsequent explosion of technology, almost all societies believed in a cyclical theory of social movement and, indeed, of all history and the universe. This was, obviously, based on the cyclicity of the seasons, and an agricultural economy’s and societies strong ties to that cyclicity. Since much of the world (i.e., everyone but the hyperindustrialized West) is closer to their agricultural roots, they are still much more amenable to cyclicity than progress in history.

Ethics:

Winston provides an excellent summary of the ethical implications of technological development and deployment. He states there are four major ethical implications:

1. Challenges traditional ethical norms.

2. Creates an aggregation of effects.

3. Changes the distribution of justice.

4. Provides great power.

But the most important contribution of technology is making life of common people much easier and helping them achieve what was previously not possible.

Lifestyle:

Technology, throughout history, has allowed people to complete more tasks in less time and with less human intellectual or manual labor. Many herald this as a way of making life easier. However, work has continued to be proportional to the amount of energy expended, rather than the quantitative amount of information or material processed. Technology has had profound effects on lifestyle throughout human history, and as the rate of progress increases, society must deal with both the good and bad implications. In many ways, technology simplifies life.

  • The rise of a leisure class
  • A more informed society can make quicker responses to events and trends
  • Sets the stage for more complex learning tasks
  • Increases multi-tasking
  • Global Networking
  • Creates denser social circles
  • Cheap price

In other ways, technology complicates life.

  • Sweatshops and harsher forms of slavery are more likely to be found in technologically advanced societies, relative to primitive societies.
  • The increasing oppression of technologically advanced societies over those which are not.
  • More people are starving now, in this most technologically advanced age, than at any point in history or pre-history.
  • The increase in transportation technology has brought congestion in some areas.
  • Technicism
  • New forms of danger existing as a consequence of new forms of technology, new types of nuclear reactors, unforeseen genetic mutations as the result of genetic engineering, or perhaps something more subtle which destroys the ozone or warms the planet.
  • New forms of entertainment, such as video games and internet access could have possible social effects on areas such as academic performance.
  • Creates new diseases and disorders such as obesity, laziness and a loss of personality.

Institutions and Groups:

Technology often enables organizational and bureaucratic group structures that otherwise and heretofore were simply not possible. Example of this might include:

  • The rise of very large organizations: e.g., governments, the military, health and social welfare institutions, supranational corporations.
  • The commercialization of leisure: sports events, products, etc. (McGinn)
  • The almost instantaneous dispersal of information (especially news) and entertainment around the world.

International:

Technology enables greater knowledge of international issues, values and cultures. Due mostly to mass transportation and mass media, the world seems to be a much smaller place, due to the following, among others:

  • Globalization of ideas
  • Embeddedness of values
  • Population growth and control
  • Others

References:

Adas, Michael (1989). Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

McGinn, Robert E. (1991). Science, Technology and Society. Englewood Cliffs. N.J.: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-794736-4.

Noble, David F. (1984). Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation. New York: Knopf.

Smil, Vaclav (1994). Energy in World History. Boulder: Westview Press, pp. 259-267.

Williams, Robin; Edge, David (1996). “What is the Social Shaping of Technology?” (The Introduction to paper “The Social Shaping of Technology”.). Research Policy 25. Retrieved on August 10, 2006.

Winston, Morton (2003). “Children of Invention”, in Morton Winston and Ralph Edelbach (eds.),: Society, Ethics and Technology, 2nd ed., Belmont, Calif.: Thomson/Wadsworth.

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