Technology Manufactures Social Change

The main thing, it seems to me, is to remember that technology manufactures not gadgets, but social change. Once the first tool was picked up and used, that was the end of cyclical anything. The tool made a new world, the next one changed that world, the one after that changed it again, and so on. Each time the change was permanent. Using the tool changes the user permanently, whether we like it or not. Once when I was in Moscow talking to academician Petrov, I said, “Why don’t you buy American computers to get you into space quicker and more effectively?” He replied, “No fear; they’d make us think like Americans.”

You only have to go back a few years in this century to see how our gestalt, our way of behaving, our values, have been changed by science. If I say just a few names, you’ll get my point: the Pill, calculators, jet airplanes, television. Take those examples and look at their secondary social effects. Yes, the Pill has made family planning feasible, but now the Third World regards it as a suspicious imperialist Western trick to keep their numbers down while we go on with our “economic imperialism.”

Calculators have changed the meaning of testing people in certain kinds of knowledge, which we need to do to ensure publicly accepted standards of professional ability. Jets mean people can now fly and visit the ends of the Earth, but they also mean that we export our way of life and our sometimes unacceptable value systems to places that neither want nor need them. Television makes my life one of totally vicarious experiences. It gives me packaged glimpses of the world beyond my horizons, takes away my comfortable preconceptions, and replaces them with glossy, quick-fix substitutes that are even less good to me than my preconceptions were. All I know now is that I don’t know!


Examples of technology changing society, unintended consequences.

Folksonomies: culture technology social change

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/science (0.496296)
/society/unrest and war (0.399109)

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Third World:FieldTerminology (0.913083 (positive:0.362657)), Petrov:Person (0.824252 (negative:-0.849263)), Jets:Organization (0.491630 (negative:-0.466343)), Moscow:City (0.481643 (neutral:0.000000)), buy American:FieldTerminology (0.440802 (negative:-0.217956))

Change (0.979780): dbpedia
Meaning of life (0.781875): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Earth (0.777634): dbpedia | freebase
Imperialism (0.774331): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
World (0.773926): dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase
Tess Gaerthé (0.695363): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Neocolonialism (0.676028): dbpedia | freebase
Sociology (0.653376): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Legacy of Science
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Burke, James (1985), The Legacy of Science, Langley Research Center, Washington, DC, Retrieved on 2011-06-19
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science society progress