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Technology: Friend or Foe?

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Technology is defined by dictionary.com as “The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives” Determining whether this technology has helped or hindered our society, we must remember that it is not limited to computers and the internet. Technology has had a variety of faces over the last several thousand years of human existence. As man began to understand more and more about his environment, he began to use that knowledge to accomplish a practical purpose.
     We know from history books and stories passed from generation to generation that man gradually improved things as he discovered them. This is true from the invention of the wheel to the ancient Egyptians great pyramids. Had they not discovered the technology to accomplish these things, our American way of life would be vastly different today. The wheel led to the horse drawn carriage, which led Henry Ford to invent the automobile and the assembly line. Ford's Model T, the only auto Ford produced from 1910 to 1927, not only outsold every other car made for much of its product life, it outsold all the myriad other cars sold in the U.S. combined*. From those two inventions alone, a great improvement in travel and productivity was accomplished, not to mention the money. Today, we still manufacture automobiles and many other things in an assembly line due to its efficiency and effectiveness. Modern technology has robots to reduce the number of human operators required. Computer controls enhance the precision of the machinery used in these assembly lines to reduce flaws. This process continues to improve, but there are side effects.
     Will Smith, a corporate trainer in the IT industry with 15 years experience said that “Without technology, many Americans would be without work today. The advancement of computers and the internet has created far more opportunities for new kinds of jobs. My company would not exist without it. Computers do fail, creating the job of pc repair for thousands, if not millions of people. Anytime you use equipment to improve things you need someone to maintain it, and therefore jobs are created.” The question was then posed, “What negative effects, if any, do you see resulting from the widespread use of technology?”. Mr Smith replied, “The internet in particular has encouraged laziness among many people. It also causes people to withdraw from social interaction because they can do everything they need from their home. These side effects, however, would happen regardless. We as people are generally as lazy as we want to be, that’s why we simplify everything. We want as much as possible with as little work as possible. You could easily say that we depend on this technology for too many things, and you would probably be right. The thing to remember is that, if it weren’t technology, it would be something else.”
     The automobile is probably the most widely used technological advancement in place today, however, communication is just as critical. Two thousand years ago, we wrote on stone tablets with hand made tools. If you wanted to send a message a friend or family member in another city, your only option was to manually deliver the message either by animal or on foot. Ancient as it may seen, this form of communication did not change much until the early 1990s. Until then, passing a message still involved writing it down and manually delivering to the person for which it was intended. Thanks to Henry Ford, we now have mail trucks to drive it there, making the delivery time much less, but it still has to be delivered in its physical form. In 1991, widespread use of the internet began permeating our way of life. Communications were made simpler and more effective through the use of instant mail and messaging software. The internet is imperitive to our way of life today, and simply because it improves communication.
     To say that technology affects our society would be an understatement. We have become reliant on all forms of technology from toasters to the internet. Without the improvements that have been made by applying science to everyday life, our society would not function in its current format. Technology has improved our quality of life ten fold and will continue to do so for many generations.
* taken from: Millionaire of the people ; New biography helps explain the popular appeal of the paradoxical Henry Ford; [Chicago Final Edition]
David Farber, professor of history at Temple University. Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Ill.: Jul 31, 2005. p. 1

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