The Role Of Technology In Social Change

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Introduction

No one can step into the same river twice,because everything in the world is in perpetual motion which helps the universe to be made up.Our society is an organic and complex synthetic,facing inevitable change and it is influenced by culture,politics,economics,technologies and other aspects with time.Social change has been defined in different theoretical orientations and concisely can be viewed as the changes in the social mechanisms,which can be embodied as the alteration of cultural symbols,rules of conduct,social organizations or value systems(Giddens, 2013, p. 111).Two of the most important aspects of social changes are specified to the change of social structure and the change of social relationship.Also,it cannot be denied that technology has played a significant role in social change.Social revolutions are tied together with technology,rather than technological tools,the original cause is that technology has changed the way people work and think.

How technology changes societies

The social system is an open system that exchanges material,energy and information with the outside world all the time. Meanwhile,it adjusts its original institutions to adapt to the new environment,and then social changes have formed. In the primitive society,the low-level productivity was just to meet the need for survival of human beings. During that time ,strictly,people did not have the concept of technology(Giddens, 2013, p. 124). The development of technology has promoted social change.

It was the germination of science and technology that had made mankind step into the pre-modern society:people created stone tools, discovered fires,created words,and thus promoted social change. According to Harris(1978, cited in Giddens, 2013, p. 129), a famous anthropologist,pre-modern society can be divided into four main types:hunting and gathering societies,agrarian societies,pastoral societies and traditional societies or civilization. The technological inventions of the Stone Age made hunting and fishing possible for human beings;and the creation of the plow brought the second social revolution and helped people have more stable food sources,at that time agricultural society was born.

Artificial fires made people bid farewell to the darkness and expanded the capacity of time and space;historical record and dissemination of knowledge derived from the invitation of writing;the creation of the compass promoted the development of the maritime industry and promoted the process of trade. The emergence of machines based on inanimate power resources (such as steam and electricity) ushered in industrial society. Mechanized production replaced traditional manual manufacturing and freed labor force,subverting the way society was organized,leading the collapse of traditional and feudal societies and the emergence of capitalism(Giddens, 2013, pp. 119-123).

Marked by the invention of microchips,modern technologies,including internet computer nuclear technology and new energy technology,have greatly improved the level of world productivity and completely subverted the mode of human production and the way of interaction between people,and strengthened the intelligent industry which speeded up the process of social change and brought globalization(Giddens, 2013, p. 127).In primitive society, people paid much attention to the division of labor and cooperation, and they were far away from war. There was almost no inequality in power and wealth.

When it came to horticultural and pastoral societies, people relied on farming and raising livestock. Governed by the chiefs or kings,the population of society began to grow and social stratification appeared. In non-industrial civilized society, word and printing were used widely,the development of art and science becoming unprecedented prosperity. Ruled by a king or an emperor,the balance of wealth and power suffering a huge tilt(Raiu, 2011, p. 393).

Generally,in the history of mankind, technological innovation has played a decisive role in social change. If these tools had never been invented,people might have lived on hunting and gathering. Technology has not only become an internal independent factor in the modern productivity system, but also become a decisive factor and become the driving force behind the development of modern productive forces. The development of science and technology,through the transformation of productivity as an intermediary,and through the profound impact on the socio-economic structure, ultimately led to changes in the entire society.

The effects of technology on social change

The development of technology helped people put down the plow, left the farmland, and stepped into the industrial society. Originated in Europe,modern technology lead the emergence of industrialization,without which,people might continue to rely on inefficient traditional handicrafts(Tomory, 2016, p. 160). As Economic historian David(2003, cited in Giddens, 2013, p. 119) suggests, modern technology not only helps people to make more products,but also creates objects that were never produced by hand in any way. Industrialization broke up the feudal society and gave birth to a new economic operating model called capitalism, of which power and wealth were monopolized by capitalists. In modern society,the impact of technology on social change is becoming more and more direct and significant. Represented by computers,the third technological revolution has completely changed all aspects of people’s lives as well as determining the political and military economy of a country,having accelerated the recovery and development after the Second World War.

However,the acceptance of industrialization and the gap in technology have made great differences in the development of different countries. For example,the technology varies greatly across European countries and the differences are in expansion,which has brought about a significant gap in labor productivity(Filippetti & Peyrache, 2015, p. 533).

Over the long process of human history, technology is one of the cores of social change, but as we can witness ,the inequality of wealth,power and resources brought by the development of technology can never be ignored.

Technology and globalization

There are many ways to connect with the external world,whether at home or at work in a society with highly developed telecommunications infrastructure,such as telephone,digital television,satellite television,email and Internet. Including the popularity of information technology,these technologies promote the compression of time and space,which has helped worldwide instant messaging become a reality(Giddens, 2013, p. 127). The way people communicate has changed,if they want to chat with their families or friends across the Atlantic what they have to do is just turning on their smartphone.

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Aqueil(2014)points out that the emergence of globalization is the result of the global economy which benefits from trade and technology. The booming development of information and communication technologies has promoted globalization. However for less-developed countries, the unequal distribution of economies and sources has been aggravated by the information gap.

Technological Pessimism

From the perspective of techno-pessimists,the development of technology has triggered the disappearance of species,the lack of resources,the explosion of population,the nuclear terrorism,and the polarization of the rich and the poor ,threatening the survival of mankind.

Jeremy(1996) redefined a second law of thermodynamics from a philosophical perspective and argued that the process of human civilization is actually a way to continuous decline. The enormous energy consumption of modern industrial society has brought great confusion to the world. The faster the social development is, the more the energy is consumed,which has increased the degree of environmental chaos, so ‘the world is always falling'(Rifkin, 1996, p. 18).Rifkin(2010) also points out that for the Millennial Generation, the convenience of internet helped them communicate in an international social networking ,but their dependence on technological connectivity might lead to the collapse of the expressive skills for the young(Rifkin, 2010, p. 30).

Dennis(2004)makes a similar point:If the consumption of population,food,industrial pollution and resource will increase as the current trend, population grows exponentially, which leads to the collapse of the whole society(Dennis, 2004, p. 367).

The development of technology is providing convenience to people,but at the same time,it is increasing the consumption of resources, making people more dependent on technology.

Technology affects the changes of social relationship and structure

The development of technology has brought about great changes, not only the transformation of the relationship between human beings and nature, but also changing the way people interact with each other. Represented by computers and the Internet,modern technology has established a direct channel which helps people to communicate and feedback their information.

American computer scientist Paul(2018)uses the conception of ‘common symbiosis’of biology to describe a new relationship between human beings and technology. He emphasizes that the computer is an important ‘community partner’ in human society,in which the relationship between people and machines becomes an indispensable condition in social life. Furthermore,human beings and networks form a new relationship ‘group symbiosis’ in this social ecosystem.In the future,with the development of computer technology, people can experience social life with computers that can simulate human emotions and activities(Paul, 2018, p. 45).

This means computers and networks will become a unique species in human society that can establish symbiotic relationships with people and influence the social relationships of people in reality,which is amazing but also scary:the machine has human emotions of human beings,but the machine is always just a machine.

Phillip and Karim Gherab(2012) point out that since the middle of the 20th century, the development of the modern scientific and technological revolution has made the integration of science, technology and production an irreversible trend(Phillip & Karim, 2012, p. 260).

In this sense, technology has became an independent element of the modern productive system.On the basis of transforming productivity, technology has changed the social division of labor and further changed the industrial structure,occupational structure and social stratum structure of the society, thus causing changes in the entire social structure.

Conclusion

From individuals to countries, the available resources are enriched,and communicative mode has become more and more diversified,technology having been the engine to drive the change of society including the revolution from primitive society to information society,the appearance of industrialization capitalism and globalization. The impact on society from technology is largely determined by economic factors,but it also extends beyond the economic field. Technology affects politics and culture and itself is affected by both also. Although modern society is only a small part of human history, it has undergone rapid and major changes due to the promotion of technology.The development of technology has brought about the changes in social structure and social relations.But technology has also brought excessive consumption of energy, and even environmental problems,and it also increased inequality between developed countries and undeveloped countries.

References

  1. Ahmad, A. (2014). Globalization of Science and Technology through Research and Development. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 283-287. doi: 10.4236/jss.2014.24031
  2. Giddens, A. (2013). Globalization and Social Change. In W. Philip (Ed.). Sociology(7th ed., pp. 108-151). Cambridge:Polity Press.
  3. Donella, M. (2004). The limits to growth : the 30-year update. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
  4. Edmore, M. (2012). The impact of technology on social change: a sociological perspective. Journal of Research in Peace, Gender and Development, 2(11), 226-238.
  5. Filippetti, A. and Peyrache, A. (2015). Labour Productivity and Technology Gap in European Regions: A Conditional Frontier Approach. Regional Studies, 49(4), 532–554. doi: 10.1080/00343404.2013.799768
  6. Judy,W. (2008). Life in the fast lane? Towards a sociology of technology and time. The British Journal of Sociology, 59(1), 59-77.
  7. Paul, A. (2018). Internet of Things – Will Humans be Replaced or Augmented?. Marketing Intelligence Review, 10(2), 42-47.doi: https://doi.org/10.2478/gfkmir-2018-0017
  8. Phillip, K. and Karim, G. (2012). Technology, Culture, and Society. Emerging Digital Spaces in Contemporary Society(pp.254-276). Palgrave Macmillan Limited.
  9. Rifkin, J. (1996). A New Social Contract. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 544(3), 16-26. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.sheffield.idm.oclc.org/stable/1047960
  10. Rifkin, J. (2010). Are Millennials Cursed?. In These Times, 34(2), 30-31.
  11. Raiu, S. (2011). Structure and function in primitive society. Revista Romana de Sociologie, 22(3), 392-395.
  12. Tomory, L. (2016). Technology in the British Industrial Revolution. History Compass, 14(4), 152–167. doi: 10.1111/hic3.12306

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