Wednesday, October 30, 13:30-15:00

Changes in Technology and Society

Prof. V.K. MALHOTRA Member Secretary, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), Ministry of Human Resource Development, Republic of India

The word technology stands for art, skill and the science of craft which comprises of techniques, skills and methods applied in production of goods and services. Tools at different stages of history are said to have constituted technology at that stage of development, be that fire or tools to control it during pre-historic times, invention of wheel during Neolithic age, inventions of printing press, telephone, aeroplane, computer, air conditioning, space technology etc. in last 100 to 150 years, and that of imaging technology, laser and fibre optics, nuclear technology, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, energy technology, advanced materials, superconductivity, quantum computers, artificial intelligence and so on during previous two to three decades. Different pre-historical and historical periods are portrayed on the basis of technological developments such as Stone Age, Ceramics Age, Metal Age (Copper, Bronze and Iron Age), natural agriculture, advanced agriculture, industrial age, and new technology age. Moreover, various civilizations are identified with a specific type of technological advancement as Mesopotamia is associated with sophisticated architecture, mud bricks and stone; Babylon with water systems and canals for irrigation; Egyptian with pyramids made by basic machines; Indus valley with city planning, architecture, materials engineering, hydrology, sanitation & plumbing technology; China with seismological detectors, cast iron, iron plough and paper; Roman civilization with road building, civil engineering, spinning & weaving and machine making etc.

The term technology gained prominence in the 20th century with the beginning of Second Industrial Revolution as the German concept of Technik was translated as Technology by American social scientist Thorstein Veblen. Reid Bain used the term for all tools, machines, instruments, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and skills that we use in producing these. Technology refers to tools, machines, skills, and processes that are used to solve real world problems. When mentioned with a particular branch of knowledge such as cyber, bio, space, medical, communication and so forth, it refers to tools, skills and processes to solve problems in that specific sphere.

Technology includes science, engineering, mathematics and the art (skill) to combine these to solve real life problems to improve the quality of life, raise efficiency, productivity and happiness in life. It is also viewed as an activity that influences culture and is also influenced by cultural institution. It is considered to be a driving force for economic growth and development. In the recent times, nations or societies are distinguished as highly developed, developed or less developed on the basis of their degrees of advancement in technology.

Social scientists find technology important for advancements in economic, political and social systems, gain in intellectual and physical capital, reduction in production, transportation and communication costs, alleviation of poverty and achievement of social equality. There is no doubt that technology has made life convenient in various ways which the earlier generations may have not even imagined of. The world market is getting increasingly integrated, transportation and communication costs have diminished, farm yields have increased, returns to capital and labour have also shown rising trends, infrastructures have improved; and technology has become all pervasive as it has entrenched into all major dimensions of life. The pace of adjustment to the changes in technology has varied among societies at global as well as at national levels. The concerns related to concentration of development and gains from those, relative stagnation of less advanced societies, patents of new innovations, disruption of markets esp. related to labour and wage rate differences, variations in adaptiveness of more educated and less educated, adoption of new technology for social welfare, environment and greener world, privacy issues etc. are being raised to ensure better distribution of gains emerging from technological developments.

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