The 20th century was characterized by numerous technological advances in many fields, including travel, communication, and healthcare. Over the course of this century, scientists made numerous discoveries, and many brilliant inventions were made. These advancements have continued in the 21st century, and today, almost all aspects of human life are influenced by technology. By definition, technology is the human invention of things that enhance our natural abilities. The average human living in the 21st century is heavily reliant on technology to carry out his/her day to day activities. As a result of this, technology has a wide range of impacts on the modern world. While some of them are positive, others have a detrimental effect on human life. The various impacts of exposure to technology are of great interest to anthropologists. This paper will discuss the different anthropological issues pertaining to technology’s impact on the world.
Impacts of Technology
Technology has led to an increase in the globalization phenomenon, which is characterized by the increased integration of societies and economies around the world. Globalization is a historical process that has been taking place for millenniums. Since historical times, people have experienced some levels of economic and social integration with other people from different geographical locations. However, the rate of globalization was modest, and its impacts were marginal. Zeleny acknowledges that the phenomenal increase in globalization experienced over the past century can be attributed to new technologies developed over this period (442).
Advances in transport technology have led to a sharp decline in the cost and time needed to traverse great distances. Developments in information and communication technology have made it possible for people to communicate efficiently regardless of their geographical positioning. There are numerous impacts attributed to globalization. It has led to an increase in the standard of living for most people all over the world due to technological transfers.
Employment opportunities have also emerged from the increases in economic relationships between nations. Globalization has also led to an increase in cultural understanding as people from various cultures interact with each other and share unique aspects of their cultures with each other. On the negative, globalization has led to the destruction of cultural diversity as minority cultures are swallowed by the major Western cultures. Local businesses have also suffered from increased competition from multinational companies that have better finances and enjoy massive economies of scale (Zeleny 450).
Technology has had a profound impact on the concepts of time and space. These concepts appear natural to most people living in a given society. However, researchers indicate that time and space are social constructions that are shaped by social relations (Green 281). The technological advances have transformed the everyday concept of time and space in phenomenal ways. Technological advances have led to the construction of the modern urban metropolis, which is characterized by a concentration of the population in a limited geographical space. Green states that the modern city has contributed to a changing experience of time-bound social relationships (282).
By concentrating population, people are able to experience ever-changing interactions amongst centralized infrastructures. Green explains that the spaces in the city “separate the private from the public, and institute locations and places that have little connection with each other” (282). The public, therefore, experiences regular discontinuity as they move from these different spaces. The concept of space is transcended using traveling technology that enables people to move across significant geographical spaces in a short time. Space appears to have shrunk as technology reduces the span of time it takes to move from one location to another. In this way, technology has led to the compression of space.
Telecommunication advances have profoundly changed the concepts of time and space. This technology has led to the compression of activities and relationships into frequent and shorter durations of interaction. ICT speeds up time by making it possible to perform more processes within a short duration. Through decentralized communication, interactions between people using technology are increased. Time is therefore compressed due to the fragmenting of communication into more numerous communications of shorter duration.
Technology has led to uneven development all around the world. This uneven development has occurred within nations and among nations with significant negative repercussions. There is an uneven distribution f the benefits of technology between the industrialized nations and the less-industrialized nations of the world. The industrialized nations are often the producers of new technologies. These countries use technology to gain an advantage in the global market.
Siobhan and Wylie assert that developing economies are often suppliers of raw material and consumers of finished products and high technology goods (58). Due to their technological advances, developed nations are able to trade in high-value products. The global prices for the raw materials produced and exported by the developing economies are low while the prices for the finished products and high technology goods are high. The developed nations, therefore, derive greater benefits from international trade than the less developed nations. This has led to the uneven development observed between countries.
Technology has also promoted inequality within individual countries. New technologies have increased the demand for skilled labor while the unskilled workers have been displaced by machines. The earning power of some people in society has, therefore, increased while others have been rendered redundant. This has led to uneven development in nations as technology enriches some people while it destroys the livelihoods of others.
Technology has contributed to the high unemployment levels experienced, especially in developing nations. Technological inventions increase the efficiency with which certain activities are conducted. While this can improve the competitiveness and the growth rate of a country’s economy, it can also lead to increased unemployment. Sjoholm and Lundin document that technology leads to skill or capital intensive production, which reduces the demand for labor (2).
Technology, therefore, acts as a substitute for human labor in some industries. This leads to increased unemployment as machines put people out of work. While productivity in companies that utilize technological solutions is higher than those with lower technology, job growth is poorer in high technology companies. In China, the adoption of technology by state-owned enterprises contributed to the decline in employment numbers from 145 million in 1995 to 75 million in 2005 (Sjoholm and Lundin 5). This demonstrates the adverse impact that technology can have on employment in the world.
Finally, technology has led to hyperculture, which is the concept of use to refer to a society that moves at a rapid speed. Technology has contributed to hyper culture by subjecting society to too much change within a short time span. Older technologies have been improved and deployed at larger scales while at the same time, the swift introduction and growth of new technologies have taken place. This rapid introduction of technology has led to a situation where the prime command of our culture is to keep up with the change. This trend has led to the destruction of traditional values as society accelerates at high speed. Bertman declares that the rapid changes brought about by technology are disruptive to community life (18). People are unable to adapt adequately to the changes that technology brings, and this has led to social problems, including the breakdown of the traditional family. Bertman blames technology for the deterioration in the meaning of important concepts such as marriage and parenthood (21).
Technology is responsible for the advances that human civilization enjoys today. This paper set out to explore the various impacts that exposure to technology has on society. It began by that technology can be an instrument of positive and negative change in society. On the positive, technology has increased the pace of globalization and led to a deeper integration of the human community. It has also shrunk the world by facilitating time-space compression, which has increased efficiency.
On the downside, technology has fostered uneven development between nations and even within citizens of a country. Technology has also led to increased unemployment as technological solutions replace human labor in various industries. The high rate of change brought about by technology has led to the disruption of the community. From the discussions held in this paper, it is clear that technology has had positive and negative impacts on the world. It would be important to consider the negative effects of technology and take steps to mitigate them. By doing this, we can ensure that technology remains to be a positive force in our world.
Bertman, Stephen. “Hyperculture: The Human Cost of Speed.” Futurist 32.9 (1998): 18-23. Web.
Green, Nicola. “On the Move: Technology, Mobility, and the Mediation of Social Time and Space.” Information Society 18.4 (2002): 281-292. Web.
Siobhan, Clarke and Gillian Wylie. “ICT 4 the MDGs? A Perspective on ICTs’ Role in Addressing Urban Poverty in the Context of the Millennium Development Goals.” Information Technologies & International Development 9.4 (2013): 55-70. Print.
Sjoholm, Fredrik and Nannan Lundin. “Will Science and Technology Solve China’s Unemployment Problem?” Asian Economic Papers 9.2 (2010): 1-28. Print.
Zeleny, Milan. “High Technology and Barriers to Innovation: From Globalization to Relocalization.” International Journal of Information Technology & Decision Making 11.2 (2012): 441-456. Web.