The Disadvantages of Advanced Technology
By John Papiewski
Updated March 16, 2018
With advanced technology, modern society has accomplished goals unthinkable even a few generations ago: landing a man on the moon, eradicating diseases and producing record amounts of food. However, all of advanced technology’s benefits come with costs, some plain, others long-term and hidden. Continuous advances in technology create nearly constant, stressful social changes. They create large-scale dependency on energy sources. Moreover, new technologies frequently have flaws and reliability problems.
New technologies cause social shifts; with advanced technology, these shifts happen more often. High-speed, global communications allow a multinational corporation to shut down a call center in Atlanta, Georgia, and open a new one in Bangalore, India (see Reference 1). Grade-school children acquire cell phones, and texting becomes a center of their social lives. Kids without cell phones have a comparative disadvantage. Online social media become almost centrally important to political candidates, who must use it or risk losing touch with voters.
An increasingly technological society comes to depend on communications, reliable utilities and the regular delivery of food from farms to urban centers. If any of these parts break down, the rhythms of daily life stumble. On a personal scale, if a computer crashes, if a phone line is cut down or if the electricity stops, it stresses you. It may have economic or personal consequences for you.
Advanced technology requires highly skilled technologists specialized in increasingly narrow disciplines. Skills become rapidly outdated, requiring constant training to stay current. An employer may require years of experience for you to land an interview, but knowledge of older technologies confers few advantages.
Though rapid development cycles allow for some product testing, many advanced technology products have so much complexity that they ship with flaws, both known and unknown. Early adopters of technology have in many instances become unpaid product testers (see Reference 2). If enough customers complain about a problem, the manufacturer may issue a recall, repair or workaround. A problem may be inconvenient, as in dropped cell phone calls, or it may be deadly, as in an incorrectly-programmed cancer therapy radiation machine (see Reference 3).
Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."