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Category: 01. 2/7 What is STS? (Page 1 of 2)

Technology and Society

         I have always wondered about the generation that has come before us and what they did before this age of technology. Our generation is so reliant on it that we look at screens and devices all day, that is just how the world is now. Although, as a generation, we have lacked in taking in some of the skills from our previous one. We look at dating, business, and normal communication and it is all now through apps and texting etc. When all those things were not around everyone had to do something that we now all fear, to talk. That is where society comes into play and why it is paired with technology in our course. Instead of society controlling the technology we have almost found a way for the technology to control us. Although when we speak on things affecting a ‘society’, what exactly do we mean by that? What or who defines society?

         I’d like to break up the definition of the word society. Merriam-Webster gives it to us as, “an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another” (Merriam Webster). The definition begins by telling us that a society, something we all claim to be apart of, contains members whom collaborate and sustain. What they are undergoing is simply “up to them” but they must cooperate in the group. Continuing on, a society has made up relationships and connections that are very structured and well designed. They do so in making this by connecting with one another. The whole point of breaking that definition into pieces is because the given meaning behind a word we all use too loosely, sounds like something made up, basically fake. Something that contains patterns and setups, like technology. This definition more closely represents society today more than it did for the generation before us. The exact definition and its wording all sound like we could be data in a computer. The only thing that does not represent that is “through interaction with one another” which is something I have mentioned we have also lost, unless it’s through some sort of device. This very present and relevant definition of the word shows that we, and the societes we group ourselves into, have turned into the machine.

            How does technology affect groups this heavily? Well, first of all, the things we have made are made to make simple tasks easier. Instead of us all having different great qualities or skills, we use technology instead. Therefore no being has anything to contribute, therefore not actually being a real society. Instead, all of those electronics and gadgets contain the skills we once had, so in a way they are forming and becoming more of a society than we are. We musn’t rely on computers and smart electronics for everything or we lose everything. We do not want to become inferior to technology, if so we lose society.

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Technology’s Impending Doom

If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

The primary purpose of technology in today’s society is to solve the problems that plague us and find ways to simplify our lives. Seemingly every major industry in the United States economy is focused on enhancing accessibility, simplicity, and efficiency through technology. The rise of the iPhone and its plethora of applications seemed to accelerate this trend in my mind. The phrase “There’s an app for that” was promoted by Apple. It quickly caught on and actually became true. Seemingly overnight, apps for just about everything began popping up. From banking to cooking to travel to gaming, there is literally an app on your mobile phone that can do just about everything. There are now home security systems that allow one to turn locks, shut off lights, and set alarms systems all from an app on one’s phone.

There are some, like Frank Loyd Wright, who argue that this hyper-focus on simplicity through technology will eliminate human creativity and purpose. That this will ultimately drive us down a path of internet dependency and laziness. To a certain extent I agree with this sentiment. Humans are creatures of purpose, we exist to pursue our passions, inspirations and goals. If we as a species get to the point where we are unwilling or incapable of pursing our goals, then I believe that we are in a great deal of trouble. Some will make the case that we are already at this point, that our youth is completely dependent on technology and will become a generation that marks the beginning of the devolution of humankind. I would have to disagree both with this idea and with Frank Loyd Wright.

The world is changing. The internet is entirely responsible and there is no going back. Cryptocurrencies are beginning to catch on and more and more industries and businesses are conducting business electronically. You are now able to sign legal documents over the internet. You can pay your friends instantly via apps like Venmo and Wells Fargo. The way we conduct business and various other lines of work are changing, primarily in white collar industries. The 9-5 work day is almost a thing of the past. In high-paced, demanding white collar industries, you are expected to have your phone on your person at all times, always on call to “put out a fire” or respond to changes in global market prices. One could argue that humans are now challenging their brains at an unprecedented level, we are now constantly bombarded by an insatiable, incessant flow of information. While our generation may think and work differently from those of the past, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Human’s are constantly evolving and the recent advances facilitated by the internet and it’s accessories are allowing us to witness it at an advanced rate, the likes of which we have never before seen. I am excited by the development. While I don’t think internet dependency is necessarily a good thing, I believe it is an inevitable trend that is going to change the course of human nature in a permanent fashion.

Man’s Great Fear

In the past there was a clear distinction between man and machine. Man would be responsible for thinking, designing, and implementing ideas while a machine could solve the mundane and menial tasks assigned to it. However, as society continues to advance, the machine that once started as a tool to aide man, is becoming a master of its own.
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The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. ~Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988




There is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom and the invaluable utility of the latter in todays society contributes to my interest in liberal arts, and more specifically STS. The value of wisdom, knowing how to think critically and make the right decisions, is something no amount scientific facts and numbers can replace. While this “knowledge” can be taken into account, human wisdom is something that will become increasingly valuable in the coming years of automation, as it is something that machines can never replace. Even the most sophisticated of googles machine learning algorithms has to learn from failure, something that we often do not have the luxury of when developing our society. This is why it is up to someone with wisdom to make the right decisions through experience and gut feelings. As science discovers more “tools” for innovation, discoveries that can improve our existing tech and lead to new developments as well, we must have people leading the course of this innovation in business and government to have the wisdom to lead it in the right direction.

I think the study of STS will lead to this sort of wisdom that is so crucial in societies rapid development. Learning how to think critically about environmental, ethical, financial and other issues leads to the kind of creative thinking that can spark new innovation and invention. This is exemplified by the assignments for the course, such as this, as well as anything. No matter how good someone can get at memorizing facts and equations and than writing them down on a test, the value of that skill in the workforce will be increasingly diminished, as we get more reliant on computer and google in our future jobs. Instead an assignment where we respond to a complex idea or topic and discover pertaining facts and ideas along the way offers a much more valuable skill. One learns how to develop a complex idea from a small idea such as a quote, and than articulate that thought process according to experience, facts and science to make a final product. In many ways this process is very similar to the process of technological and political innovation and can offer a lot of transferrable skills in the way you develop your brain. I think the perfect example of this relationship between the speed of knowledge and wisdom developing in our world is the smartphone. Most people now have the bulk of modern human knowledge and the ability to contact most people they know at their fingertips and yet the average American is using it most often as entertainment to kill time rather than using its potential to keep progressing forward in any area of ones life. The irony is that as we have all this information to scroll through and consume, our attention spans are diminishing and actually stunting the ability to entertain complex ideas and develop wisdom.

Magicians are real! And they speak Java

Spoiler alert, magicians have walked this planet for millennia. Most recently their cloaks are grey sweatshirts with hoods up as they behind  a glowing screen, or their magic wands. They understand the language their colleagues speak but few others do. In a way, they wield a power no one else does, no one else can understand and the result is the equivalent of magic.

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Have We Lost the Art of Our Own Thought?

Much of the world today is digital. If a person active on social media, their phone, and the internet were to disconnect, they would have to provide a reason with an extreme circumstance. Why is that so? An unknown author explores this situation with the quote, “I like my new telephone, my computer works just fine, my calculator is perfect, but Lord, I miss my mind!” describing the ease of being caught up in technology. What is essential in analyzing this situation is the last four words, ‘I miss my mind’ because it brings up the issue that individual thought and technology independence are becoming lost arts.

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