The ideas and
examples referenced below are notes compiled by Robert Keel and Shannon Mayer
in their reading of Volti's, Society and Technological Change,
6th edition, Worth Publishers, 2010. They are intended for classroom
WINNERS AND LOSERS: THE DIFFERENTIAL EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE
- There are both negative
and positive aspects to technology.
- Technology greatest
single source of economic growth (technology of production)
as a Subversive Force
- Technology can function
w/out altering existing social arrangements
- Technological solutions
better than (less painful) social or political solutions
can be a subversive process that results in the modification or destruction
of established social roles, relationships and values." (page 18)
- Some change is small
- Some change is massive
- Economy distinctly affected
by Technological change:
- Destruction of obsolete
firms: Pony Express: Telegraph wires & Telephone
- Typestting vs. Computers
- Internet Phone vs.
- Concern over Technology
has always been present:
"Railroads, if they
succeed , will give an unnatural impetus to society, destroy all the relations
that exist between man and man, overthrow all mercantile regulations, and
create, at the peril of life, all sorts of confusion and distress." (from
Muller in Volti, page 18)
Effects of Technological
- Australian aboriginals
- Greatest Technology was
- Stone axesimple
axe but involved many materials
- Axe tied to gender identityonly
men possessed axe.
- Introduction of steel
axe by missionaries- men, women & children got axes
- Men lost distinct identity,
culture began to disintegrate
- Demise of Yir Yoront
not only tied to axe, BUT axe is a good symbol for the new world and technology
imposing itself on traditional aboriginal peoples
- Small town supported
by single industry: steam locomotives
- Onset of diesel-electric
- Once thriving community
vanished within a few years.
Same true for countless
"blue-highway" towns following the construction of the Interstate
Groups can and do defend
themselves against technological change:
- Silk industry: (pre 1850s)
manually unwound silkworm cocoons.
- Jardine Matheson trading
company (Britain) seeks to use steam powered machinery to reel silk.
- Although faster, not
successful because of opposition from Silk Makers Guild.
- England- Ned
Lud a stocking maker who smashed stocking frames. (see also)
different groups who smashed machines, but began in hosiery trade.
- Hosiery trade- wanted
to use wider frames to make more hosiery for less money.
- Allowed for use of less
skilled (cheaper) labor. Workers objected.
- Alsobad harvest
led to increase in food costs. Workers pay wasnt meeting their basic
- Fear of unemployment
because of technological change, not intrinsic fear of machinery.
- Machinery was target
- Worker Protest eventually
took more peaceful formse.g. unions were established.
- Luddite: anyone opposed
to modern technology and its extensions.
Recent opposition to the
use of computers and their potential to replace human labor can be seen as A
form of Neo-Luddism (David Noble on
Technology does not succeed
or fail on its intrinsic meritsocial, political, economic factors play
- Some technology succeeds
because of particular group interest: Atomic Power
- Some technology fails
because of particular group interest: AIDS research in early 1980s
Technology costs money
LOTS of money
Technology sponsored by
corps. and govt. thus, disproportionately representing these groups.
Can and Cannot Do
- Why is there such a gulf
between social progress and technological progress?
- "If we can put a
man on the moon, why cant we
The Technological Fix
- Technology used to attempt
solutions for many problems.
- Heroin addiction: development
of Methadone and now "cocaine
- Car Accidents: seat belt
and air bags.
- Grafitti on public property:
stronger chemicals to resist paint.
- YET, none of these technological
solutions address underlying social factors
Why Cant Technology
problems are fundamentally different from technological problems.
- Goals for technology
usually clear and unambigious: how do you assemble a car.
- Goals for society anything
but clear: many different ways to "solve poverty."
- Social problems- causes
are manifold, human motivation key factor.
- Technological solutions
work best in closed systemno outside factors to interfere.
- When problem cannot be
easily isolated: technological solution less likely to be effective.
- BESIDES, No problem,
technological or otherwise is ever really solved.
to one problem creates new problems.
- Artificial hearts
help sustain life BUT:
- aging population
needs to be cared for
- issues of morality
- Internet security
The Appeal of Technocracy
- Despite limitations,
groups (Technocrats) still attempt to make social problems into technological
Management Theory (Early 20th Century).
Taylor- Metallurgical engineer. (2)
- Time and motion
study: how many motions should it take to complete a job?
- Managers determine
amount of motions needed and workers follow unreservedly.
- Workers benefit
because they dont waste time & managers benefit from higher
- Workers paid
piecemeal, not wages & since workers are efficient theyll
- Taylor: extend
this theory everywhere, homes as well as workplaces.
- Lenin (Russia)
- Work and Monopoly
The Technocrats Delusion
Once again, technical problems
are not the same as social problems. Even if Scientific Management Theory was
ideal, workers upon whom it was imposed resisted its use (Hawthorne Experiment
and "Human Relations" approach). Basic Fallacy of Technocracy:
administration can replace politics.
nor administration can supply the values that form the basis of [our] choices.
They cannot tell us what we should do with our lives, nor can they help us
to resolve the fundamental issue that all societies confront: how to distribute
fairly lifes necessities and luxuries." (page 30)
Questions (pages 31-32:
1. Can you think of
some established industries that have been undermined by technological advance?
What industries might be threatened in the future?
2. Were the Luddites
justified in their attacks on machinery? What about modern day Luddites?
3. What examples of
technological fixes can you give? Are they successful? How can
we judge success in this context?
4. What is a technocrat?
What role would or do they have in modern political systems?
Owner: Robert O. Keel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, December 31, 2010 16:09