s415.c02.fa10 - SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society...

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Unformatted text preview: SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 Textbook: Volti, Rudi. 2009. Society and Technological Change. 6t h edition. Worth Publishers Inc. REVIEW — CHAPTER 2: WINNERS AND LOSERS: THE DIFF ERENTIAL EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE (19-35) Technological advance has been the greatest single sou rce of economic growth: Boosted production of goods and services . Created new products while improving qua lity of existing ones. In 1950s, U.S. was analyzed through the use of sophisti cated statistical techniques. The major source of economic growth was a “residual” factor — tec hnological advance was the main element, although organizational development and impro roved worker skills, together with economies of scale are also key components (19). A particular technology may be used for good or evil pur poses. But t technological change is often a subversive process that results in the modificatio n or destruction of established social roles, relationships, and values (20). There are many technological changes small in scope — and effects felt by only a few. A few technological changes are massive — lead to vast socia l restructuring. But despite its benefits, technology exacts a cost (20). Technological changes — major and minor — often lead to restructuring of power relations, redistribution of wealth and income, and alteration of hum relationships. Example: Read man experiences of the Yir Yoront (20-21). Technological advances that may have benefited society as a whole have done so at great cost to the people immediately affected, as when many place s of employment closed down due to new products and processes replacing old ones – leavin g communities and their inhabitants in desperate straits (22). Groups threatened by technological innovation are not a lways helpless — many have defended themselves against changes in the way of doing things. Examples: U.S. construction workers at e the end of WWII; 19th C. Chinese silk producers (23). Read The Luddites (23-24). 19th C. saw replacement of small manufacturing establis hments by large factories — fertile ground for development of labor unions and other organ izational veh hicles for pressing the interests of workers (25). Neo-L u ddism — o pposed to modern technollogy and its extension. Becoming more aware of its consequences, people made numero us efforts to prevent or restrict the spread of technologies perceived as threats. Examp le: C ompu t ers threate ned many establis hed occupational roles and procedures — led t o resistance to installation and use (25). In 199 5, the New York Times and the Washin gton Post published a lengthy critique of mo d ern society and the pi votal role o f techno logy in crea ting and m aintaining i t. Page 1 of 2 SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 The author was Theodore Kaczynski (the “Unabomber) who from 1978 to 1995 was responsible for 16 bombings that killed three people and wounded 2 3 others (25-16). Technology does not proceed solely through its own mo mentum — its development is strongly influenced by existing social and political arrangements. Technologies do not stand or fall on their intrinsic merits. Decision to develop and deploy a new technology — often shaped by distribution of power in a society (26). Social and political arrangements affect the course of technological change by influencing (i) the kinds of inves tments that are made, (ii) the research projects that are funded, and (iii) the general priorities that are established. Large organizations — corporations and government agencies — often wield disproportionate influence over the process of technological change (26). Technology may threaten a group's interests... ... or advance iinterests of a particular group. Why is there such a gulf between technological progress and social progress? The list of technologies that have been or could be appli ed to the alleviation of social problems is extensive. The list of technologies for the solution of s ocial problems resulted in varying e degrees of success because: • Actual mechanisms through which technology produces a change — often poorly understood. • Technological shortcuts also produce uneven results . • Technological solutions only eliminate the surface m anifestations of the problem (27). n Social problems are fundamentally different from technic al problems — differ in their specificity. They are directly concerned with human motivations and behaviors — exceedingly difficult to change through technological intervention (29). No problem, technical or otherwise, is every really “solve d.” Most solutions are incomplete and generate new “residue” problems that are sometimes mo re intractable than original problem. Consider rapid development of modern medical technologies: life-saving drugs, organ transplants, sophisticated diagnostic techniques. Given the expense of many of these, it may be necessary rationing — will this take place through to spend more on medical care or attempt to ration it. If r o the price mechanism, or will it be done according to som e formalized procedure? In any event, serious ethical issues are to be faced. Also, life-extendin g technologies have raised questions about the morality of prolonging a life under conditions th seem dismal; a longer individual life hat a span leads to an aging population and the necessity for a wide range of adjustments to the society, the economy, and even the culture (30). Read The Appeal of Technocracy (30) and The Technoc rat’s Delusion (33). c Technological changes inevitably produce social change s and these do not affect everyone equally. Not everyone benefits to the same extent and, i n some cases, certain individuals and groups lose out completely. A choice of technology is oft a determination of who wins and ften who loses; consequently, affected parties should have th e opportunity to participate in the process (34) an Technological development may make some aspects of our lives better, but it ca never substitute for a just and effective political and social syst em (34). Page 2 of 2 ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2010 for the course SOC 415 taught by Professor Swift,d during the Fall '08 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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