How is technology projected to affect our society?
The technological advancements of our modern world only began a few decades ago. In all of history, our planet has never been so connected. Compared to the span of human history, this connectivity has only just begun, which also means the consequences of such a technologically dependent society have only started to emerge.
The first generation that was born and bred in technology is now beginning to reach adulthood, and with their emergence are the effects of their upbringing. This article hopes to pose both the projected positives and the projected negatives of the impact of technology.
The Positive Impact of Technology
Pew Research Center conducted a survey on the opinions of experts in this field in order to project the visions of the internet for 2035. These experts believe that the internet will evolve to house better digital platforms to facilitate better conversations. In other words, social media platforms will better regulate “socially harmful” activities while also promoting free speech.
They say that the increasingly digital world will create more jobs, most of which will have remote options. And technology is often praised for its impact on the professional field, for its networking and marketing purposes. For example, many businesses and professionals have utilized social media in order to spread information to a wide and often viral audience. However, a growing rate of non-experts are raising concerns and are worried that technology will almost entirely replace human labor.
While these are all predictions, there are clear steps to take to help make these positive changes possible. Mike Liebhold, a retired fellow at the Institute for the Future, is reported saying, “A revolution in technology education and media services is required to help populations adapt safely to radical changes in digital experiences that are expected to arrive by 2035.” It is our job as a society to teach people about technology now, in order to better promote a positive evolution of technology in the future.
The Negative Impact on Technology
Unfortunately, not all opinions on the effects of technology are positive. Pew Research Center conducted another survey asking experts about their concerns with modern technology:
Rob Reich, professor of political science at Stanford University, said, “The massive and undeniable benefits of digital life – access to knowledge and culture – have been mostly realized. Furthermore, the harms have begun to come into view just over the past few years, and the trend line is moving consistently in a negative direction. I am mainly worried about corporate and governmental power to surveil users (attendant loss of privacy and security), about the degraded public sphere and its new corporate owners that care not much for sustaining democratic governance. And then there are the worries about AI [artificial intelligence] and the technological displacement of labor. And finally, the addictive technologies that have captured the attention and mindspace of the youngest generation. All in all, digital life is now threatening our psychological, economic, and political well-being.”
Rich Salz, an engineer at Akamai Technologies said, “We have already seen some negative effects, including more isolation, less ability to focus, more ability to be deceived by bad actors (fake news), and so on.”
Leora Lawton, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said, “the long-term effects of children growing up with screen time are not well understood but early signs are not encouraging: poor attention spans, anxiety, depression, and lack of in-person social connections are some of the correlations already seen, as well as the small number of teens who become addicts and non-functioning adults.”
These are only a few of the many quotes made by experts on this survey. However, Pew Research Center is not the only organization that has researched the effects of technology on our society. The National Endowment for the Arts also published a report and found that reading is on the decline due to the more desirable passive participation of electronic media.
Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, writes, “Reading a book requires a degree of active attention and engagement. Electronic media, such as video games and the Internet foster shorter attention spans and accelerated gratification.” This report teaches that it is the increased availability of other activities such as television, electronic media, the Internet, video games, and portable digital devices, that has drawn Americans away from reading.
Why is reading important to a society? This same study reports that reading correlates with higher rates of civil involvement, as well as higher participation in volunteering, charity work, art museum visits, and other cultural participation.
Our world is more connected than ever before and yet there are many that say we are too connected. The benefits of technology, while worthwhile, have posed to be of concern to those who are experts in technology and sociology. People have so much access to entertainment and instant gratification through technology, that the less instant pleasures in life are getting lost in the mainstream.
The solution posed by these same experts is as follows: One, teach the public about technology so they can be equipt to cooperate with what our society is most dependent on. And a second solution is that our public agencies would put a greater emphasis on the importance of reading and the importance of taking a break from the screens to enjoy our natural world.
Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe
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