Today, technological advances are happening at a very high pace. From intelligent communication devices to medical breakthroughs in genetics and vaccines, technology is working remarkably well for man. Undoubtedly, technology has improved the quality of life in areas such as health, medicine, communication, commerce, politics and defense. However, even with all these technological improvements on the quality of life, there are worries that technology may soon become uncontainable. These fears are based on the technological singularity theory, which states that machines may one day become more intelligent than their human manufacturers, leading to unwanted occurrences (Chalmers, 2010). This fear is also consistent with the law of accelerating returns by Kurzweil that shows the exponential nature of technological growth. This paper provides views on the effect of technology in society, based on various theories on technological change.
In terms of social and work life, technological changes have had considerably positive effects. The most important element of my social life is communication. Two decades ago, communication was significantly slower than it is today. Mobile phones were not common and one had to rely on landline telephony or telegram for urgent communication. The media was also not as efficient as they are today because they relied primarily on print media, radio and television. Today, I rely on the internet for quick communication through tools such as email, news websites and social media. I have also benefitted in my education because I have new learning tools such as internet search engines and text management software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader etc. In terms of entertainment, technology has enabled me to access music, movies and games and to enjoy them in their highest quality.
Technology theorists have predicted that accelerated changes in technology may not all be beneficial to humans. According to Sandberg (2010), technological singularity is gaining interest among futurists. Futurists predict that technological advancements may cause an intelligence explosion, leading to an ultra-intelligent machine. According to Chalmers (2010), this machine will surpass the intellectual capabilities of the human mind and take over. The explosion of intelligence represents the “singularity.” This way of thinking is also consistent with the law of accelerating returns by Kurzweil. He postulated that change in various evolutionary systems (including technological growth) increases in an exponential manner. However, the difference between the technological singularity theory and Kurzweil’s theory is that Kurzweil argues that when technology meets any form of barrier, a new technology will emerge to overcome the barrier. In this regard, there may be no need to worry about the intelligence explosion because man may change his way of life to accommodate technological changes. Just as in Kuhn’s paradigm shift theory, at a time of crisis, man will change from the old paradigm to the new one (Kuhn, 2006). In 1943, Thomas Watson, the president of IBM at that time, thought that there was only a market of five computers in the world (Strohmeyer, 2008). However, he was living in the old paradigm. In retrospect, Thomas Watson could have never been more mistaken. In the same manner, the futuristic fears regarding artificial intelligence and other modern forms of technology will soon subside as man learns how to live in the new paradigm. Today, we could be worrying too much about the effect of technology on human beings that in reality there may be a paradigm shift to make everything look normal. Life with artificial technology and multitasking would be considered normal in this shift.
Technological changes are happening at a quick, even alarming rate. Technological changes in medicine, education, entertainment and communication are making the quality of life better. However, some futurists fear that rapid change in technologies may not be good for the future of man. However, others are hopeful. They believe that man will find a new way of living to accommodate these changes.
Chalmers, D. (2010). The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17(1), 7-65.
Sandberg, A. (2010). An overview of models of technological singularity. Future of Humanity Institute, 1-4.
Strohmeyer, R. (2008, January 1). The 7 Worst Tech Predictions of All Time. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from http://www.techhive.com/article/155984/worst_tech_predictions.html
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