Find out what are the main the pros and cons of technology. We discuss the history, importance and role of technology, as well as its impact on society. Is technological progress good or is it becoming a threat to us? Vote in our poll and debate (see below)
Is technology good for society? A brief history
The impact of technology on society is undeniable. Technology and science have played a central role in human history and help shape entire civilizations. Technological progress was key for the emergence and downfall of empires. The development of hunting and farming tools allowed our ancestors to dominate other hominid species. The invention of the wheel and writing, as well as the introduction of metal tools and weapons were other landmarks in the history of technology. Many successive civilizations have contributed to the world's advancement. Often the development of technology also helped these societies to dominate militarily, politically, and economically their neighbors, as well as increase the welfare of their citizens.
The Egyptians invented many farming, medical and construction technologies. The Mesopotamians are credited for introducing irrigation and drainage systems, as well as sophisticated mud-brick and stone architecture techniques. Greeks were responsible for many inventions, such as the watermill, and the improvement on many existing technologies. Still today Greek mathematicians, engeneers and philosophers are recognised as fundamental to the history of human thought and technology. The Romans brought technology to a new level, and their monumental amphitheatres, aqueducts, bridges, harbours, dams and public baths help them dominate the Western world for centuries. Ancient Indian civilizations are credited for developing good understanding of seafaring, sanitation and hydrological technologies. Chinese discoveries include paper, matches, the cross-bow, seismological detectors, the wheelbarrow, the suspension bridge and the compass, among others.
During the Middle Ages architecture, navigation, papermaking and military technologies were developed. The Arab conquest of the Iberian Peninsula helped to introduce Europe to many technological advances developed in the east. The Renaissance and the Age of Explorations also demonstrated how innovation shaped societies. Research and inventions were put into practice. The use of artillery, new cranes and medical techniques marked a beginning of a scientific revolution. The Portuguese and Spanish discoveries, were enabled by technological progress but also help connecting different civilization which accelerated the spread of innovation. The industrial revolution brought the steam engine and developments in mining, metalurgy, manufacturing and transport. Since the 19th century, science and technology have evolved even faster. The 20th century brought the expansion of electrification and communication technologies, mass industrial production, electronic computing, nuclear technology and space exploration among others. It also demonstrated the devastating power of some of the technologies developed by humans. The weapons developed during that century, including the weapons of mass destruction, caused the deaths of millions.
The 21st century seems to have accelerated even faster these processes and intensified the impact of technology on society. Technology colleges such as MIT and Stanford have help accelerate scientific discovery. Genetic engineering, nanotechnology, 3D printing, wireless powered devices, augmented reality, articifical intelligence, drones, quantum computers and superconductivity are among the many new technologies we are witnessing today. But what come next? Can technology continue to help our lives or is it becoming a real threat to us? Can we keep scientific progress under control or will technology control our lives? Let's discuss the advantages and disadvantages or technology.
Pros and cons of technology
Pros of technological progress
- Thanks to technological progress humans live longer and much more comfortable lives. The medical advancements have helped us develop vaccines and treatment for diseases which were previously lethal. Giving birth is not as dangerous as it used to be. Technological progress has allowed develop new techniques for diagnosis and mitigation of diseases and other conditions. Scientific research has improved our understanding of nutrition and contributed to healthier lifestyles.
- Technology has allowed humans to travel faster and trade goods all over the world. Crossing the Atlantic was historically an adventure that would take weeks. Now in just a few hours you can travel from New York to London or Paris. Thanks to technology we can have holidays in remote locations and capture these moments through pictures. We can now buy and consume goods produced far away. In the same supermarket you can find French cheeses, South African wines, Spanish olive oils, Brazilian coffees, and Japanese fish.
- Without technology we would still be nomads hunting and gathering fruits and vegetables. Industrial societies heavily rely on technological progress. We can feed a fast growing world population thanks to the continuous innovation in production techniques. New inventions help foster the production, storage, treatment and transportation of goods. Societies which invest in research and development have a competitive edge and thrive. The people in technologically advanced societies live more comfortable lives.
- Genetically modified foods (GMO) may help fight hunger and ensure that world population continues to be fed. Genetic modification techniques contribute to produce more food and to maintain agricultural production at affordable prices.
- The Internet, computers and mobile phones illustrate the role of technology in improving society. Efficiency has skyrocketed thanks to these inventions. Our work and social lives have been transformed. People can now work from home and collaborate with teams located in other towns, countries or even continents. We can keep a fluid communication and relationship with friends and family living abroad. News of events cross the globe in seconds. Social netwoks such as facebook and twitter are extremely useful. Thanks to technology grandparents get to see and chat with their grandchildren much more often. People today get to meet others sharing similar hobbies or interests.
- Thanks to new technologies, alternative forms of entertainment and art have developed during the last century. Photography, radio, movies, television shows, music and video games occupy a central spot in people's lives. There are new forms of entertainment at our doorstep, such as virtual reality. Additionally, IT is facilitating the work of creators and help increase the quality of entertainment.
- The importance of technology in the delopment of renewable energies is evident. Without technological progress it would be difficult to envisage a green future in which the problem of climate change could be kept under control. Scientific advancements are making electric cars more affordable and enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of solar and eolic energy, as well as that hydropower.
Cons and risks of technology
- Technology is altering our lifestyle and will alter the cognitive and social development of current and future generations. There are many different ways in which the evolution of technology and society are connected. Technological innovation has changed our lives. Computers, smartphones and the internet have strongly affected how we interact with other people. Many claim that they are dehumanizing our lives and making us more solitary people. Technology may be also facilitating cultural colonialism and reducing diversity. Today, children play less with other children and spend much of their time watching videos in their tablets and playing video games. People are doing less physical exercise than their ancestors. We are becoming increasingly detached from nature and attached to technological gadgets.
- Human cloning technology is a reality and in addition to some obvious advantages, human cloning brings some risks. For instance it could create worrisome divides in society between those genetically divided to be smarter or physically more attractive and the rest. Human cloning will be difficult to regulate and will bring concerns regarding its interference with nature and religious beliefs.
- Weaponization of viruses. For instance, viruses such as Ebola or AIDS could be transformed into a virus that could be transmitted through the air. This could endanger or even cause the extinction of the the human race. Lifeforms can be created through genetic manipulation. With techonological progress the techniques to create or manipulate lifeforms will be increasingly accessible to us. Potentially even high school children will be able to create life in science experiments. Genomes of infectious diseases will be available to download from the internet. Terrorists, psychopaths and other criminals will have the capacity to use genetic manipulation to harm or threaten others.
- Similarly, scientific experimentation might create enormous dangers for society. Risky experiments may go wrong. Researchers are currently mutating microorganism in order to find cures to diseases. By accident these diseases could escape the laboratory and spread. Experiments with particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider, entail some serious risks. Some scientists even claimed that humans could create a black hole that could destroy Earth.
- Enrichment of uranium is becoming an increasingly cheaper process. Traditionally the infrastructure required to produce nuclear power and build nuclear bombs was extremely expensive. Thanks to technological progress and the use of laser beams to separate U-235 and U-238, in the not so distant future, people might be able to enrich uranium home. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the wrong organizations or individuals could create enormous unrest in the world population and a serious security threat.
- Technological progress is to be blamed for the negative effects of global warming and climate change. The role of technology fostering economic progress is difficult to deny. However, at the same time the generation of enegy necessary to the increased production and transportation of goods, for instance through combustion engines and thermoelectric generators, has produced an increased in the emission and concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- Technology can be also used as an undesirable tool of control. For instance, scientists are working to develop brain scanning machines which could allow read a person's thoughts. This would have great benefits as could allow people with disabilities or people having suffered brain damage to communicate. Moreover if through a magnetic resoncance we could enquire criminals and terrorist we could also prevent harm for society. Similarly, thanks to advanced IT, it is possible to analyse the communications of millions of people and identify potential crimes and wrongdoers. Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that technology will end up used by some governments in a draconian way. A dystopian future where people are constantly inquisitorially surveilled by a Big Brother as in Orwell's science fiction classic 1984.
What do you think, is technology good or bad? Is technological progress out of control? Will the rest of the 21st century see the importance of technology reduced?
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Technology pros and cons: is technology good or bad for society?
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