Society and Technology

Society and Technology

The relationship between society and technology has always been one of interwoven feedback loops so complicated that it can seem ultimately pointless to attempt to differentiate the two terms in the first place. However, using the terms as two different, mutually-effecting entities can offer interesting thought experiments to the thinker hoping to reflect on the strange and amazing aspects of our time that have been foregrounded to the point of accruing a false sense of validation and normalcy. Let’s proceed accordingly.

virtSociety will always transition based on technological change; technology affects the jobs available at a certain time, the quality of life expected by the average member of the middle class, the information available to the average person, and many other crucial and definitive features of a society at a given place and a given time. There are a number of technological advances that have been accredited with responsibility for major societal change; the invention of the printing press, for example, enabled more works of writing to be made for less money and energy than ever before. This in turn caused the rate of literacy to sky rocket across Europe, as did the widespread knowledge of global and continent-wide events.

Another pertinent example can be made out of the invention of the internet. The internet’s effect on global society (indeed, it is held responsible for making global societies possible) is so immense and has happened so quickly that it remains difficult to analyze and therefore predict future consequences. What can be said for certain is that the opening of a new virtual space where people can educate themselves and assemble based on common interests makes this time unparalleled in terms of the potential to pursue one’s own chosen path for personal growth. That said, it’s important to acknowledge that the internet also has the potential to be a horrifying cesspool.

Technology impacts society so much that it may seem at this point very clear that it is the true catalyst to societal change, and perhaps is stationed at the steering wheel of global cultures. However, it’s important to realize that the technological advancements that have occurred over time have all been posited by members of the society of a particular age and culture; societal mores largely determine the values which, once taken for granted, determine what kind of inventions would be found useful and attractive.

virt2For example, consider the technology behind the invention of the plethora of medieval torture devices that can now be seen in museums across Europe. Those devices owe their existence to the brutality normalized in the penal systems of those times.  It’s also important to realize that the environmentally detrimental aspects of most technology, and the less environmentally detrimental technology borne out of the unfolding green revolution owe their technological differences to a shift in societal consciousness and values.

In that regard, technology and society will always be defined based on the lens of the story teller; they function as a veritable before and after, a cause and effect that can always be switched based on perspective.

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