See also: Science, technology and society
Technology society and life or technology and culture refers to cyclical co-dependence, co-influence, and co-production of technology and society upon the other (technology upon culture, and vice versa). This synergistic relationship occurred from the dawn of humankind, with the invention of simple tools and continues into modern technologies such as the printing press and computers. The academic discipline studying the impacts of science, technology, and society, and vice versa is called science and technology studies.
The importance of stone tools, circa 2.5 million years ago, is considered fundamental in the human development in the hunting hypothesis.
Primatologist Richard Wrangham theorizes that the control of fire by early humans and the associated development of cooking was the spark that radically changed human evolution. Texts such as Guns, Germs, and Steel suggest that early advances in plant agriculture and husbandry fundamentally shifted the way that collective groups of individuals, and eventually societies, developed.
Modern examples and effects
Technology has become a huge part in society and day-to-day life. When societies know more about the development in a technology, they become able to take advantage of it. When an innovation achieves a certain point after it has been presented and promoted, this technology becomes part of the society.Digital technology has entered each process and activity made by the social system. In fact, it constructed another worldwide communication system in addition to its origin.
A 1982 study by The New York Times described a technology assessment study by the Institute for the Future, "peering into the future of an electronic world". The study focused on the emerging videotex industry, formed by the marriage of two older technologies, communications and computing. It estimated that 40 percent of American households will have two-way videotex service by the end of the century. By comparison, it took television 16 years to penetrate 90 percent of households from the time commercial service was begun.
Since the creation of computers achieved an entire better approach to transmit and store data. Digital technology became commonly used for downloading music and watching movies at home either by DVDs or purchasing it online. Digital music records are not quite the same as traditional recording media. Obviously, because digital ones are reproducible, portable and free.
However, although these previous examples only show a few of the positive aspects of technology in society, there are negative side effects as well. Within this virtual realm, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat have altered the way Generation Y culture is understanding the world and thus how they view themselves. In recent years, there has been more research on the development of social media depression in users of sites like these. "Facebook Depression" is when users are so affected by their friends' posts and lives that their own jealousy depletes their sense of self-worth. They compare themselves to the posts made by their peers and feel unworthy or monotonous because they know that their life is not nearly as exciting as the lives of others.
Another instance of the negative effects of technology in society, is how quickly it is pushing younger generations into maturity. With the world at their fingertips, children can learn anything they wish to. But with the uncensored sources from the internet, without proper supervision, children can be exposed to explicit material at inappropriate ages. This comes in the forms of premature interests in experimenting with makeup or opening an email account or social media page—all of which can become a window for predators and other dangerous entities that threaten a child's innocence. Technology has a serious effect on youth's health. The overuse of technology is said to be associated with sleep deprivation which is linked to obesity and poor academic performance in the lives of adolescents.
Economics and technological development
In ancient history, economics began when occasional, spontaneous exchange of goods and services was replaced over time by deliberate trade structures. Makers of arrowheads, for example, might have realized they could do better by concentrating on making arrowheads and barter for other needs. Regardless of goods and services bartered, some amount of technology was involved—if no more than in the making of shell and bead jewelry. Even the shaman's potions and sacred objects can be said to have involved some technology. So, from the very beginnings, technology can be said to have spurred the development of more elaborate economies.
In the modern world, superior technologies, resources, geography, and history give rise to robust economies; and in a well-functioning, robust economy, economic excess naturally flows into greater use of technology. Moreover, because technology is such an inseparable part of human society, especially in its economic aspects, funding sources for (new) technological endeavors are virtually illimitable. However, while in the beginning, technological investment involved little more than the time, efforts, and skills of one or a few men, today, such investment may involve the collective labor and skills of many millions.
Consequently, the sources of funding for large technological efforts have dramatically narrowed, since few have ready access to the collective labor of a whole society, or even a large part. It is conventional to divide up funding sources into governmental (involving whole, or nearly whole, social enterprises) and private (involving more limited, but generally more sharply focused) business or individual enterprises.
Government funding for new technology
The government is a major contributor to the development of new technology in many ways. In the United States alone, many government agencies specifically invest billions of dollars in new technology.
[In 1980, the UK government invested just over 6-million pounds in a four-year program, later extended to six years, called the Microelectronics Education Programme (MEP), which was intended to give every school in Britain at least one computer, software, training materials, and extensive teacher training. Similar programs have been instituted by governments around the world.]
Technology has frequently been driven by the military, with many modern applications developed for the military before they were adapted for civilian use. However, this has always been a two-way flow, with industry often developing and adopting a technology only later adopted by the military.
Entire government agencies are specifically dedicated to research, such as America's National Science Foundation, the United Kingdom's scientific research institutes, America's Small Business Innovative Research effort. Many other government agencies dedicate a major portion of their budget to research and development.
Research and development is one of the smallest areas of investments made by corporations toward new and innovative technology.
Many foundations and other nonprofit organizations contribute to the development of technology. In the OECD, about two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 98 percent and 10 percent respectively by universities and government. But in poorer countries such as Portugal and Mexico the industry contribution is significantly less. The U.S. government spends more than other countries on military research and development, although the proportion has fallen from about 30 percent in the 1980s to less than 10 percent.
The 2009 founding of Kickstarter allows individuals to receive funding via crowdsourcing for many technology related products including both new physical creations as well as documentaries, films, and webseries that focus on technology management. This circumvents the corporate or government oversight most inventors and artists struggle against but leaves the accountability of the project completely with the individual receiving the funds.
Sociological factors and effects
See also: Social construction of technology
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. 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. That 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.
- 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 society's strong ties to that cyclicity. Since much of the world is closer to their agricultural roots, they are still much more amenable to cyclicity than progress in history. This may be seen, for example, in Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar's modern social cycles theory. For a more westernized version of social cyclicity, see Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 (Paperback) by Neil Howe and William Strauss; Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 30, 1992); ISBN 0-688-11912-3, and subsequent books by these authors.
Institutions and groups
Technology often enables organizational and bureaucratic group structures that otherwise and heretofore were simply not possible. Examples 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.
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:
- Globalization of ideas
- Embeddedness of values
- Population growth and control
Main article: Environmental technology
Technology provides an understanding, and an appreciation for the world around us.
Most modern technological processes produce unwanted by products in addition to the desired products, which is known as industrial waste and pollution. While most material waste is re-used in the industrial process, many forms are released into the environment, with negative environmental side effects, such as pollution and lack of sustainability. Different social and political systems establish different balances between the value they place on additional goods versus the disvalues of waste products and pollution. Some technologies are designed specifically with the environment in mind, but most are designed first for economic or ergonomic effects. Historically, the value of a clean environment and more efficient productive processes has been the result of an increase in the wealth of society, because once people are able to provide for their basic needs, they are able to focus on less-tangible goods such as clean air and water.
The effects of technology on the environment are both obvious and subtle. The more obvious effects include the depletion of nonrenewable natural resources (such as petroleum, coal, ores), and the added pollution of air, water, and land. The more subtle effects include debates over long-term effects (e.g., global warming, deforestation, natural habitat destruction, coastal wetland loss.)
Each wave of technology creates a set of waste previously unknown by humans: toxic waste, radioactive waste, electronic waste.
One of the main problems is the lack of an effective way to remove these pollutants on a large scale expediently. In nature, organisms "recycle" the wastes of other organisms, for example, plants produce oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis, oxygen-breathing organisms use oxygen to metabolize food, producing carbon dioxide as a by-product, which plants use in a process to make sugar, with oxygen as a waste in the first place. No such mechanism exists for the removal of technological wastes.
Construction and shaping
Society also controls technology through the choices it makes. These choices not only include consumer demands; they also include:
- the channels of distribution, how do products go from raw materials to consumption to disposal;
- the cultural beliefs regarding style, freedom of choice, consumerism, materialism, etc.;
- the economic values we place on the environment, individual wealth, government control, capitalism, etc.
According to Williams and Edge, the construction and shaping of technology includes the concept of choice (and not necessarily conscious choice). Choice is inherent in both the design of individual artifacts and systems, and in the making of those artifacts and systems.
The idea here is that a single technology may not emerge from the unfolding of a predetermined logic or a single determinant, technology could be a garden of forking paths, with different paths potentially leading to different technological outcomes. This is a position that has been developed in detail by Judy Wajcman Therefore, choices could have differing implications for society and for particular social groups.
In one line of thought, technology develops autonomously, in other words, technology seems to feed on itself, moving forward with a force irresistible by humans. To these individuals, technology is "inherently dynamic and self-augmenting."
Jacques Ellul is one proponent of the irresistibleness of technology to humans. He espouses the idea that humanity cannot resist the temptation of expanding our knowledge and our technological abilities. However, he does not believe that this seeming autonomy of technology is inherent. But the perceived autonomy is because humans do not adequately consider the responsibility that is inherent in technological processes.
Langdon Winner critiques the idea that technological evolution is essentially beyond the control of individuals or society in his book Autonomous Technology. He argues instead that the apparent autonomy of technology is a result of "technological somnambulism," the tendency of people to uncritically and unreflectively embrace and utilize new technologies without regard for their broader social and political effects.
Individuals rely on governmental assistance to control the side effects and negative consequences of technology.
- Supposed independence of government. An assumption commonly made about the government is that their governance role is neutral or independent. However some argue that governing is a political process, so government will be influenced by political winds of influence. In addition, because government provides much of the funding for technological research and development, it has a vested interest in certain outcomes. Other point out that the world's biggest ecological disasters, such as the Aral Sea, Chernobyl, and Lake Karachay have been caused by government projects, which are not accountable to consumers.
- Liability. One means for controlling technology is to place responsibility for the harm with the agent causing the harm. Government can allow more or less legal liability to fall to the organizations or individuals responsible for damages.
- Legislation. A source of controversy is the role of industry versus that of government in maintaining a clean environment. While it is generally agreed that industry needs to be held responsible when pollution harms other people, there is disagreement over whether this should be prevented by legislation or civil courts, and whether ecological systems as such should be protected from harm by governments.
Recently, the social shaping of technology has had new influence in the fields of e-science and e-social science in the United Kingdom, which has made centers focusing on the social shaping of science and technology a central part of their funding programs.
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- ^ ab(Puricelli 2011, p. 4)
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The Impact of Science on Society
by Prof. P. Krishna
Ex-Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi 221001, India
Though modern science is of relatively recent origin, having started with Galileo about 350 years ago, it has made very rapid progress and completely transformed outwardly the manner of our living. It is said that our life outwardly has changed more in the last one hundred years than it did in thousands of years earlier, because of the scientific knowledge accumulated over the last three centuries, and its application in the form of technology. So the impact of science on society is very visible; progress in agriculture, medicine and health care, telecommunications, transportation, computerization and so on, is part of our daily living.
In spite of all this progress, the consequent development of technology and industry, and the conveniences, comforts and power we have got through this knowledge, in no part of the world are human beings happy, at peace with themselves, living without violence. It was hoped that the development of science would usher in an era of peace and prosperity, but that has been belied. On the contrary, if we look at the level of violence throughout the world during a ten-year period, from 1900 to 1910, or 1910 to 1920 and so on, in every decade, in every country, the graph is going up. So, on the one hand, greater prosperity � so-called globalization � and, on the other, greater violence, sorrow, tension, and newer diseases.
Krishnamurti raised the question: Has there been psychological evolution at all in the last two or five thousand years? Have we progressed at all in wisdom, or the quest for truth, inwardly in our consciousness? Science has generated tremendous power; knowledge always gives power and is useful because it increases our abilities. But when we do not have wisdom and love, compassion or brotherhood, which are all by-products of wisdom, then power can be used destructively. Sixty- five percent of all the scientific research being done currently is directly or indirectly meant for developing weapons, and supported by the Defence Ministry in every nation. In the last one century, 208 million people have been killed in wars, which is without precedent in any previous century.
So, does humanity deserve to have the knowledge which science is generating? We do not let children play with fire, for they might set the whole house on fire or burn themselves. And is not humanity in that state, without wisdom? There is hatred in our motivations; we are badly divided into groups � caste, national, linguistic, religious and other groups. Is it then responsible for scientists to generate knowledge, giving more and more power, without the wisdom to use it rightly? Responsibility from a theosophical point of view is universal responsibility. It means not saying: �I am only responsible for generating scientific knowledge.� You are also responsible for the whole of society, all of humankind, and even the earth. We are living in a scientific age, but what is so great about the scientific age? Have we used the discoveries of science to be more protective, kind and gentle, to bring about greater prosperity and peace?
We have been at war for thousands of years, but we now have nuclear weapons. Joy Mills in her talk said: �It is important to watch your next step, but before you take the next step, make sure that you have a long vision, which gives the direction to that step. Is the new knowledge, which is a new step, in the right direction? Through genetic engineering we might develop new power, but can we ensure that we will use that power for the benefit of mankind and for the earth at large? We cannot ensure that. If we cannot, is it responsible? Yet, all the nations of the world are spending huge amounts in developing scientific knowledge, as if that is our priority. Are the problems of humanity today caused by not having sufficiently fast aeroplanes or computers? Of course not. The problems exist because of lack of understanding of life and the psychologically primitive state in which we find ourselves.
Einstein is on record saying that had he known that his equation E = mc2, which stated a great truth about Nature, that mass is just another form of energy � will be used to make atomic bombs and kill large numbers of people in Japan, he would never have done that research or published the findings. That is something which has already happened in the last century. So, why do science?
Of course, we should distinguish between science and technology. Science is the quest for truth about Nature. Its aim is not to produce technology, but to understand how Nature works and discover the tremendous order and intelligence operating around us. If Nature were chaotic, if sometimes a stone went up and sometimes down, then there would be no science. But definite causes produce definite effects, and that is why science is possible. The scientist does not create order, he merely studies it. We are living in a very intelligent universe. A million things take place in perfect order within our body without any conscious voluntary effort on our part, but we have not discovered order in consciousness, which is virtue, peace of mind, love, happiness, compassion, freedom from conflict, non-violence. Socrates wrote that there is only one virtue � that is order in consciousness, though we may describe it in different words in different situations. And the quest for truth, and wisdom, which is the essence of Theosophy, is the quest for order in consciousness, and coming upon virtue.
So humanity has succeeded in the quest for science, because there is order already there. Newton only discovered gravitation, which existed a million years before Newton and will exist a million years hence. The laws of Nature are independent of the scientist. If you ask why Nature is ordered, the scientist cannot answer. He can only say: �I am a student of Nature. I observe and find that order there and I am studying the laws that govern that order.� The technologist takes the knowledge which the scientist discovers and uses it to make guns, or a motorcar, or generate electricity. Technology is a by-product of science, but science itself is the quest for truth about Nature.
Before Faraday, who discovered electromagnetism, it was thought that electricity and magnetism are two completely separate things. But he discovered that if you push a magnet towards a metallic wire, a current is generated in the wire, as shown by a galvanometer�s deflection. He was very excited about this new discovery. After he demonstrated this in a big hall, somebody asked: �All this is very well, but of what use is this discovery?� And he replied: �It is a new-born child. Of what use is a new-born child?� Today we know that discovery has made possible this microphone, these lights and fans, motorcars and aeroplanes and so on. But that was not the reason why Faraday discovered electromagnetism; he was just studying Nature.
Human beings use the knowledge gained by science and decide what kind of application to make of it. If there is wisdom, we will not use knowledge for destructive purposes. And if there is no wisdom, we are violent and selfish, and use knowledge in a destructive way. History shows that man has used it and is still using it primarily for destruction rather than for construction, bringing our planet and our lives to a level of danger which never existed before. Scientists are pointing out that the third world war would be the last, if it takes place. So is there anything we can learn from science as Theosophists interested in wisdom, in coming upon a deeper understanding of life and of ourselves? Science, or scientific knowledge, does not deal with values per se, with what is right and what is wrong � it does not say that you should be kind. Scientific knowledge is said to be value-neutral. But one must discover what is called the scientific spirit, for the spirit is always more important than the technique, the knowledge or the method in any activity.
Although in society we have valued scientific knowledge and its application as technology, we have not really valued the scientific spirit, without which it is wrong to call ours a scientific society. We are an unscientific society. Science says that the whole earth is one, that we are all citizens of this planet, but it is we who divide ourselves and say, �This is my culture and this is my country and I will work only for this.� For the benefit of our nation we have armies to exploit other nations. All this is not scientific. War is not scientific in spirit.
This is also true of many things in our life. There is the spirit of religion, which is wisdom, and there is the outer form or structure of religion: the rituals, the manner of praying, the beliefs and so on. Without the spirit, rituals become hollow, empty. There is the spirit of art, which is the sensitive perception of beauty in sculpture, painting and so on, and there is the technique. You can learn the technique, but if you do not have the spirit, you do not become a true artist. There is the spirit of education, the vision, and there is the technique of education, depending on whether education is regarded as merely training somebody to earn a living, or as meant to draw out his entire potential. If there is no vision, the technique, the method, and the steps go wrong. The path becomes mechanical.
So what is this scientific spirit? What can we learn from science which is precious? To understand this, let me take the example of the particular science I am familiar with, which is fairly basic to all science, that is, physics. It begins with observation, for understanding any phenomenon in Nature calls for careful observation, honest documentation and measurement, and recording. Then having collected a lot of data about the phenomenon, you look for correlations among them. From empirically found data, correlations between two variables are established, and then guessing what is the underlying reality which would cause those correlations. That is what the physicist calls �the model� � that is where his insight or his genius manifests, for he has to guess what is unknown.
Whenever scientists talk about theory, about reality, they are talking about an imaginary model of the underlying reality. Nobody has seen electrons actually going around a nucleus inside an atom. That is a conjecture, a model about the underlying reality. To this model they apply logic, using the existing known laws determined from previous work and the peculiar form of logic called mathematics, which is a product of the human mind. And then they deduce �a theory�, and try to explain all observed facts and also predict new facts which have not been observed until then. Then again the scientists go back to observation and do experiments to check if their predictions are correct. If the experimental values do not tally with the theoretically predicted values, they either modify the model, or they discard it altogether and start all over again. It is a deep quest because they are not accepting the reality as they see it. They are saying there is an underlying reality which is not visible, and we are going to find it. But since it is not visible, we have to guess, to imagine it, and that is the model.
Usually the model gives approximately correct results, and they have only to modify it and make successive models closer and closer approximations to reality. It is fortunate that the logic called mathematics has an application in Nature. Somehow, Nature follows mathematics, which is really a mystery. Galileo wrote that mathematics is the language in which God wrote the universe, and this seems to be true. Mathematics, evolved by the human mind, actually applies. Einstein could do two hundred pages of mathematics, starting from certain hypotheses, using the known laws of Nature, and then deduce that when light goes near a star it must bend, and calculate how much it must bend. When twenty years later they are able to do the experiment because technology has got refined to that point, they find that indeed it bends by exactly the amount he has calculated, which means that those two hundred pages of mathematics apply in Nature. But if you ask: �Why do they apply?� We do not know. If you ask why there are laws, we do not know. If you ask why Nature is ordered, we do not know.
So the spirit of science is one of great humility. It begins with saying, �We do not know the truth about Nature. I am making a conjecture, and I have found a method by which I can test whether this conjecture is correct or not, and to what extent it is correct.� And that is how science has progressed � without accepting authority. A young student can question Einstein, and point out an error, and Einstein will agree and thank him: �Yes you are right I made a mistake.� So nothing is accepted on authority. Science demands proof, observation, testing with experiments; and the truth must be something which is universal, which everybody can be convinced of. Of course, they limit themselves to studying phenomena which are measurable.
There is also much in life which is not measurable, which is the field of religion. But there are a number of values which are inherent, which we can learn from science. One, as we said, is humility. Scientists are not humble, science is humble. It encourages observation, testing what is observed, questioning, doubt; and the truth is the same for everybody. There is no such thing as American truth and Indian truth. There is no Indian mathematics and American mathematics. Either a stone is attracted by the earth and gravitation exists, or it does not exist; it cannot exist for Indians and not for Americans. So, it is a global activity, a dialogue among thousands of people who have never met, because that experiment is then repeated in another country by another group of scientists. And they write the results, and publish them, and everybody reads them. There is a process of dialogue and constant correction.
So truth is global, universal; it is not the private property of any individual. It is the same for everybody. These are values constituting the scientific spirit. In order to settle a dispute, violence is not used, nor authority. So the spirit is one of non- violence, of dialogue. It is also a truly democratic endeavour, based on cooperation, humility, and mutual respect. All scientists may not be true scientists if they do not work with that spirit, but science is done in that way. Unfortunately, the scientist adopts that policy in the laboratory but not at home nor in his life. A statement was made by Krishnamurti: �The scientific mind is a part of the religious mind, but the religious mind is not a part of the scientific mind.� To discover the truth about Nature this scientific mind is competent; the same approach is also valid for discovering religious truths. Religious truths are also universal, not different for different people. That is the motto of the Theosophical Society, �There is no Religion Higher than Truth�.
We have not seen the truth, it is unknown to us, but we can in humility enquire, and conduct dialogues about our perceptions, doubt our perceptions, and thereby discover for ourselves what the truth is. Theosophy is essentially the quest for wisdom, and wisdom means seeing the deeper inner nature of things. That is precisely what the scientist is doing too.
We have taught science like a technique, to carry out our own purpose. Science has become the servant of society. The politician illogically, irrationally, according to whims, decides to go to war; and scientists, as employees, are helping him do whatever he wants, whatever his government wants. Science is no longer the architect of society, and students are learning the knowledge and techniques of science, not imbibing its spirit.
The same mistake is made in regard to religion; we have not imbibed the spirit of religion. When we really care for the spirit and delve deep, we will discover that the true religious feeling and the scientific spirit are not separate. Indeed, great scientists like Einstein and Shr�dinger have come to the religious feeling, through science, through the perception of beauty in Nature. Whichever aspect of the earth or this universe you explore deeply � whether the human mind or the tree � you will discover marvellous beauty. When you go deep, truth becomes beauty and beauty truth, and that is also wisdom. The superficial understanding of ourselves, of religion, of the meaning of science, is the enemy of man. Theosophy is really to delve deep, in what area it does not matter. In the depths, there is wisdom.
Prof. P. Krishna Last modified: Mon Apr 25 22:21:03 PST 2005