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Technological determinism is a theory that deals with reduction and it assumes that the technology of a society stimulates the social as well as the cultural values of the society in question. Technological determinism is of the opinion that technology develops and diffuses away from the society but in the end it has effects on the society. Technological determinism presumes that technical progress proceeds through a single process but will eventually result in technological progress.
Technological determinism is the basis in which the relationship between the society and technology is formed. It is an important issue since it is common and it leaves us with the thought that technology is not anything unattainable. It also presumes that if people, organizations and societies start viewing technology from a positive angle, then other organs from the society and organizations will follow suit. It is however rejected by most scientists who instead would want to look into ways in which technology can be socially shaped.
Technological determinism comes in various forms, that is, hard and soft determinists.
Hard determinists suggest that technology develops away from the social values of a given society. It provides that it is up to us to change so that we can meet the requirements of technology and that we do not have control over the outcome of the organization. Technology, according to this, is powerful and has the ability to control our social lives and concerns.
Soft determinism has a more passive opinion on technology compared to hard determinists. It has a different view on how the social and political conditions interact with technology. Soft determinists believe that our evolution is fully guided by technology but then we have the opportunity to decide what the outcome of the condition will be.
A good example of technological determinism is communication technologies, which has brought about significant change compared to the past communication methods. This has also been assumed to be causing the social changes that are becoming widespread. For example, the advent of the telegraph was presumed to bring about global peace since it was believed that it would link up individuals.
Another example of technological determinism is traced to the information superhighway. This brought about the internet which is now a major tool for job creation and competition in the economy. The internet has also interlinked several communities bringing about the issue of global villages, where several communities all over the world freely communicate with one another.
Technological determinism is also found in reproduction. This is so because most people especially women nowadays have the ability to join the workforce due to the introduction of the birth control pill that was not present in the past. Teleporting or telecommuting is part of the changes that have taken place. It is the ability of workers to work from an alternative place different form their workplace but at the same time ensuring that the organizational goals are met or attained.
Telecommuting has got its own advantages since it allows employees to mix work with their family life hence reinforcing the family ties. It also has an advantage on the side of employers since they do not have to deal with employee absence and study has shown that telecommuters are more satisfied workers than those who worked in the physical location of the offices.
Examples from the past include: Lynn White in 1962 tried to explain the social system that existed during the Middle Ages in Europe in which people were given land and protection by a nobleman, and had to work and fight for him in return. Lynn explains that technological change that occurred led to changes in food production which eventually gave the soldiers who were involved in the fights energy to go on. Technological determinism eventually stimulated the destruction of the social system that existed which led to the rise of modern systems. This meant that the inventions resulted directly in changes in the social, economic and political sectors.
Technological determinism has proven to be advancing inevitably. Technological Darwinism is an example of this advancement. This gives the view that in order to survive in the technological world, one has to be in competition or ceases to exist. This further means that if changes in the social, political and economical sector are a necessity, then the change has to be adopted and effected or else extinction will be experienced. This view is what forced the English cottage weavers who existed in the past to either seek employment in the factories brought about by technological change or face starvation.
Another illustration is the syringe that is popularly used in hospitals. Sometime back the syringe was made of glass, so that after treatment of every patient, the syringe was subjected to heat in order to sterilize it and make it fit for the next patient. Presently, the syringe is made of plastic; this means that once the syringe is used on one patient it is disposed off. The plastic syringes come in sterilized form.
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Factories in the past were not power driven compared to the present factory system of technology. Technological determinism saw the establishments of industries since factory systems were enabled by the technological change. This change has made it possible for methods of manufacture that were difficult in the past to be carried and has also brought about competition in the industry sector.
Technology can be viewed as an expansion of the senses of human beings as argued by Marshall McLuhan in the communications theory of technological determinism. In this theory, our existence is shaped by the way we, humans communicate with each other. The changes in communication technology bring about changes in our culture and the mode in which we communicate also shapes our human life. Example given is the book which is an extension of the eye; the wheel is also an extension of the foot. Hearing dominated in the past where people only believed in hearing, but this has since changed due to the invention of the printing press which has brought about the use of sight. People started perceiving things visually. Audio also came into existence after the invention of electronic media such as radio and television which enhanced connection among communities hence bringing them together in a global village.
The introduction of a networked computer technology also has helped shape our future with such things as elimination of pollution, networked communities, and virtual offices. The oral language technology has been in operation for the past a thousand years despite the dominance of the new communications technologies. This old form of communication has continued to be a major part of the human communications although it cannot be recorded and it exists for a short duration. Technology has led to the development of advanced economies which also includes global economy; leisure class is also on the rise because of this. The implementation of technology affects the societal values and gives rise to new ethical questions.
The media is also a means of entertainment through the use of video games, watching movies or films, browsing the internet etc. The internet also offers an arena for more information and news. However, technology does not always bring positive benefits since weapons that can be used for destruction have continuously been developed, examples can be nuclear weapons.
Technology often affects the fields of science and engineering. Science uses the available tools and knowledge to perform the study of electrons in electrical conductors. The acquired new knowledge can then be utilized by engineers to come up with new invents such as computers and some other forms of advanced technology.
Technological determinism has defects too. Technology in itself has effects which are not normally built in to technology but they instead occur due to how it is introduced. The current technologies should not result in redundancies when they are introduced to organizations but they often occur and this is caused by the social arrangements in their introduction. Technological determinism also manifests itself in business that is, in buyer-seller relationships as argued by Williamson. It is observed that technological inventions brought about by environmental changes can alter transactions taking place including their attributes. Transactions change over frequently which are as a result of changes in technology.
Journalism is another area of technological determinism where the field has been enhanced through the invention of moving images and audio, editing can also be done in fields since production is possible during field researches. Technological determinism in the introduction of new technologies infests itself in the factors of economy. The factors of economy are found in military competition. In the case that the new technologies thrive, the conflicts that exist among societies may eventually lead to arm races. Technology often leads economic changes and also can to alienation. Some authors such as Alvin and Heidi Toffler claim that the innovations in the economic and technological sector may be reflected in warfare. It is however important that technological determinism should provide the freedom to choose and also provide a point for decision making.