The Contemporary Society
Contemporary society is continually informed of advances in technology, be they in biology, agriculture, education, or nearly any other discipline or aspect of life. It appears technology is directly or indirectly linked to all recent progress. Certainly, many of the daily activities in which humans engage (reading a newspaper, making coffee, commuting to work, etc. ) require technological devices. With the apparently increased reliance on and development of technology, it seems prudent to consider the consequences inherent in the use and evolution of it.
More specifically, one must examine the extent to which humans–the creators of technology, will become redundant in a society in which machines and the tasks they perform are incapable of being extracted from daily routines. As with nearly all issues, the development of technology is advocated by many while it is strongly opposed by others. Regarding the former, one must not search far for arguments favoring technological progress. Proponents, particularly those favoring medical advances, eagerly enumerate the positive outcomes of technological breakthroughs.
Some claim a society in which its members are born free of debilitating conditions or cured of them throughout the life p must certainly be a better civilization, or at least a more humane one. In addition, technological efforts to render crops more plentiful, nutritious, and resistant to pests is proclaimed a constructive step towards moral justice, not to mention efficient use of resources. Few deny the moral obligation of providing third world nations the skills and tools to produce food.
On a more superficial yet paradoxically significant level, the conveniences made possible by technology are also cause for celebration. That they free humans of otherwise labor intensive tasks and allow many to enjoy other more ‘worthwhile’ endeavors, such as leisure activities, is beyond question. In fact, without many currently employed machines, humans would not be able to engage in such a wide variety of daily pursuits. Considering the individual, societal, and global advantages available through technological advances, it is not surprising many favor its continued development.
Without ignoring or denying many of the mentioned benefits of technology, it is nonetheless possible to persuasively argue that its unbridled expansion can and is eliminating the need for many human activities and purposes. Ironically, while technology may solve some of humanity’s ills (for example, relieving humans from tedious and laborious tasks), by doing such at an alarming pace it is also creating unanticipated and insistent problems.
Consider the economic consequences of increased technological use. This trend, although allowing for undeniably greater productivity and reduced costs, gives rise to a potent social issue: mass unemployment. On a nearly daily basis one is informed of human redundancy; business is steadily replacing its human workforce with one derived from technology. It is common knowledge that in many industries, machines are adequate and oftentimes better substitutes for humans.
Moreover, as machinery becomes more ubiquitous in the workplace, ‘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 tractors’ (Rifkin 283). The replacement of human workers with machines is not limited to a few companies or industries; it is found throughout a nation’s business network.
More than 75 percent of the labor force in most industrial nations engage in work that is little more than simple repetitive tasks’ (Rifkin 283). Such jobs are particularly susceptible to ‘machine takeovers’. In fact, ‘automated machinery, robots, and increasingly sophisticated computers can perform many, if not most, of these jobs’ (Rifkin 283). However, the unskilled labor force, particularly that in the manufacturing sector, is not the only one vulnerable to redundancy.
As companies restructure their operations to include more computers and high-tech machinery, middle management positions are concurrently declining (Rifkin 284). In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal reiterates this phenomenon by claiming that ‘most of the cuts are facilitated, in one way or another, by new software programs, better computer networks and more powerful hardware that allow companies to do more with fewer workers’ (Rifkin 282).